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Farmers crucial to ‘carbonomics’ (Editorial)

by | Apr 16, 2021

Rare are the days when an e-mail related to carbon credits, trading programs, offsets or some other facet of climate economics doesn’t hit our inbox.
More often than not, it’s multiple messages — if not in the double digits — that promote a carbon credit webinar, announce a new partnership between companies for a “climate smart future,” offer services to farmers toward certifying agricultural-generated credits or showcase any other aspect of the burgeoning carbon sector.
The daily barrage is encouraging in one sense, that a new opportunity is on the horizon for farmers to generate revenue from their land while keeping it in crop production, and indeed, for some early-adopter farmers, it’s already here.
One company, Nori, has paid farmers for sequestering carbon on their land and another, Indigo Ag has received more than $1 billion in financing and is in the midst of brokering deals covering 2 million acres between farmers and companies wanting to shrink their carbon footprint.
The credits are expected to be paid out by the end of this year.
For all of the starts and stops in creating a workable carbon market over the years, the growth of private sector firms angling for a piece of the pie suggests this time it could really be happening in a sustained way.
However, in another sense, the business attention to carbon is reminiscent of the advent of industrial hemp a few years ago, when numerous farmers jumped head first into the new crop only to find immense challenges in selling the crop they grew.
Just like a boom in the commodity markets brings out a slew of suspicious products promising yield jumps, success in carbonomics will require a sharp pencil, a discerning eye and a curious but skeptical mindset to choose the product, program or practice that best fits a particular operation, letting the rest pass on by.
Large companies are on board, from those that need to buy credits to meet stated sustainability goals to those involved in certifying credits, brokering trades, aggregating data and funding research.
Farmer-represented groups on the national and state level are on board, pledging support and commanding a “seat at the table” for their members.
For better or worse, the federal government is on board as President Joe Biden has already made climate change mitigation a huge part of his agenda.
Getting famers on board en masse is the next and most crucial step. Without widespread farmer buy-in, there won’t be the access to land to bank carbon, or the people to make it happen and we’ll be right back where we’ve been before, with a lot of interesting concepts but not enough to make it work.

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