Ben Gordon, the Carbon and Ecosystem Services Global Portfolio Leader with Corteva, advised farmers to fully investigate the many carbon credit programs that are available before making a final decision.
Gordon says some questions you should ask include, “What is the credit that I’m generating and who is the buyer? If there’s not a very clear, articulate answer on that, you know it’s probably a red flag. I think the next big one is just what are the requirements? What can I no longer do because of this program, and can I get out of this contract?”
One complaint is that farmers who have been doing these sustainable practices for years are ineligible for the various carbon credit programs that are out there. Gordon explains why that’s the case.
“So, it starts with where the dollars are coming from. These are net new dollars in agriculture and there’s a set of climate accounting rules that are not set by Corteva or even the agriculture industry that we have to follow. And so, to bring those net new dollars, we have to follow the rules and those require that the practice changes so that the dollar is driving the action.”
Gordon says that carbon markets aren’t for every farmer right now. So, who is it for?
“If you are considering or have started to adopt a practice such as no-till, strip-till, adding cover crops, or if you’re looking to increase the efficiency of your nitrogen management, so maybe you’re going to dial it back a little bit without impacting yield, we can support you. So, if you’ve changed any of those things since the fall of 2019, we can support you and get you on this program. We guarantee a buyer. We help walk you through the whole process, so it’s not just you. You have that support. We try to simplify that process so we can bring this net new revenue stream onto the farm without it being a drag on either your operations, your agronomy, or even just your sanity.”
Gordon emphasizes that, most importantly, the agronomy has to make sense.
“These programs are paying roughly $15 a ton. That equates to $7-$20 an acre depending on the practices and the soils that you’re in. That doesn’t pay for a whole cover crop program. So, I would really recommend folks, before they signed up for this program, make sure the agronomy makes sense. Is it the soil health benefit you’re trying to go for? Is it to help with herbicide resistant weeds? Is it erosion control? Really look at that why you want to bring in this practice, and then these programs can really just help juice that business case, make it a little bit better, to accelerate or de-risk that practice transition. We’re going to help you out, but you have to believe in the agronomy first, second, and third.”