What Farmers Want to Know
Farmers aren’t afraid to ask tough questions. We’re here to answer them.
A carbon program can help farmers build better soil, reduce greenhouse gases -- and help them make more money along the way. How?
- Building soil carbon leads to more resilient crops and improves soil health
- Agricultural carbon programs are one of the most beneficial and cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Farmers can use income from carbon programs to offset investments in new practice
Currently, carbon programs only pay for carbon sequestered from new practice changes. That’s what buyers want and are willing to pay premium prices for. Any fields where these practices have already been implemented won’t be eligible.
If you’re considering soil health practices, now is the time to sign up for a carbon program so you don’t risk eligibility later.
Nothing — other than the time, effort, and science needed to generate and sell a carbon credit. To get paid for carbon credits, farmers must measure their carbon sequestration rates field by field, certify their credits with regulatory bodies, and then negotiate credit prices with individual companies.
Congress has demonstrated its support of private carbon markets (as shown by the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021), and farmer participation in private carbon programs should not affect eligibility for any government program (as is currently the case with government subsidies and cost-sharing programs like EQIP).
Carbon programs are marketed directly to the individual who is farming the land (i.e., choosing the practice(s)). The farmer — not the landowner — signs the contract and payments go to the contract holder. Depending on the program, you may or may not need signatory permission from the landowner to enroll.
Carbon programs rely on multiple factors to determine the amount of carbon in soil:
- New and historical management practices
- Soil sampling
- Soil type and weather data
Most carbon programs rely on data-driven models to predict soil carbon outcomes across fields. These models simulate how crops grow — factoring in soil condition and type, plant growth and soil disturbance — to predict soil carbon. There are baseline scenarios for both historical practices and soil health practices. Because it’s not cost effective to sample soils across all enrolled fields, randomized soil samples are often used to validate the models.
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Set a clear objective, start small and tap into your advisors for counsel — it’s the same advice for any new practice you introduce on your farm. For a quick overview of the benefits of these soil health practices beyond just a carbon payment, check out our Soil Health Resource Guide.
Any new practice comes with costs. The trick is to see the big picture. For example, costs saved from reducing tillage passes, reduced erosion, and increased organic matter can all help offset investments in new equipment. Likewise, extra revenue from a carbon program can alleviate some of the risks behind new practice changes.