Technical assistance

Could carbon markets be a new source of revenue?

Open any agriculture publication, print or digital, and you’ll likely see articles related to carbon markets. There are several companies active in the agricultural sector that recruit farmers and landowners to enroll in carbon credit programs.

This proliferation of markets is due to several factors, but it is largely due to the growing attention by governments and global corporations to the magnitude of climate change impacts attributed to atmospheric greenhouse gases. A key point to emphasize is that these are voluntary carbon programs, and each farm and ranch is unique in how they may use a pasture management system or other conservation programs to qualify for these carbon markets.


Farmland and woodlot owners are hired by companies to offset the carbon emissions associated with burning fossil fuels. Grasslands and trees use the exchange of carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis to provide us with food, fiber and energy. How farmers and ranchers manage these exchanges will potentially affect the amount of carbon stored in the soil and the amount of greenhouse gases that remain in the atmosphere.

Will carbon offsets solve the climate problem? There is a lot of debate on this issue. An offset allows the buyer of the credit to continue emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by investing in a project that reduces emissions elsewhere. The most common offset is planting trees that absorb CO2 as they grow.

Many environmental and scientific groups argue that offsets without substantial emission reductions will not reduce greenhouse gases quickly enough to prevent the irreversible effects of climate change associated with a warmer atmosphere.

Who are the buyers of these credits? Major multinationals have pledged to become carbon neutral over the next two decades. They do this by investing in offset projects to account for the company‘s direct emissions (scope 1 emissions) associated with the manufacture of their products.

For many companies, indirect (Scope 3) emissions from activities in their value chain that are not directly under the company’s ownership or control, such as transportation and distribution of goods and services, are higher to their direct broadcasts. Investments to promote sustainable practices that reduce a company’s carbon footprint within the value chain are called a carbon insert.

What is the role of grazers?

Opportunities will potentially arise for beef and dairy producers to receive monetary payments for grazing practices that sequester carbon in the soil and production practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide. , nitrous oxide and methane.

Scientists estimate that grasslands contain 10-30% of the world’s organic carbon with the potential to store more through improved grazing practices. There are several grazing management practices that lend themselves not only to increasing soil carbon, but also to improving water quality, farm biodiversity, increasing the amounts of biomass available for grazing and improving soil health. Practices include rotational grazing, optimizing stocking rates, nitrogen management, and incorporating forage species to reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.

Carbon markets can be confusing and complex. Before registering, it is advisable to do a thorough investigation of the requirements. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association commissioned a report titled “Voluntary Carbon Markets Applicable to Grazing Operations: Review and Considerations for Farmers and Ranchers” which explains voluntary carbon markets in detail and poses questions that need to be asked and answered before registration.

There are many companies actively engaged in carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas reduction projects. In the agricultural sector, there are many. Fewer companies focus specifically on pasture management. Most companies focused on pasture and livestock systems are currently participating in pilot programs. A limited number of projects are active and may not be available in all geographies. A few of these companies are active in the Midwest, notably in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The Ecosystem Services Marketplace is a national ecosystem services marketplace program that compensates farmers and ranchers for quantified, verified, certified, and results-based credits for soil carbon, net greenhouse gases, water quality and water conservation generated by regenerative agricultural practices. ESMC is a member-based not-for-profit organization and a combination of public and private companies and organizations.

Grassroots Carbon mediates between buyers of carbon credits and ranchers who adopt regenerative grazing practices that increase the likelihood of increasing soil carbon. Grassroots provides technical assistance to farmers and ranchers enrolled in its program.

The Soil and Water Results Fund provides financial incentives directly to farmers who switch to on-farm conservation practices that produce positive environmental outcomes like carbon sequestration and improved water quality. water. SWOF is currently recruiting farmers and ranchers from Ohio.

The limited space available here does not permit a detailed explanation of the complexity of these markets as to what is eligible, how sequestered carbon is verified, the duration and terms of contracts, and how payment is made, but c is a good start. It is advisable that before entering into a contract, a producer asks a lawyer to review it.


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