SALEM, Ohio — It’ll be one of the easiest ways you’ll ever make money off your farmland.
That’s what’s being said about carbon credit trading, and farmers in eight Pennsylvania counties have the chance to be among the first in the Keystone State to get involved and profit from doing, well, nothing.
Gary Swan, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s director of governmental affairs and communications, said the carbon credit trading program is already getting a good response based on the nearly 100 farmers who have turned out for informational meetings this month.
“Carbon credit trading is relatively new and complex topic, and we felt it best to not try to deal with the whole state in the first weeks and months of the program,” Swan said of putting the pilot program on track.
Sessions have already been held in Armstrong, Beaver and Berks counties, and five more sessions are set throughout the remaining counties selected to participate: Centre, Chester, Columbia, Franklin and Lycoming.
Those counties were selected based on geography, to allow farmers from different areas of the state to get in early, and also based on the extent and diversity of agriculture in the counties, Swan said. Enrolling no-till and grassed pastureland will be emphasized in those counties early on.
The program will expand later this year and will eventually be open to all counties in the commonwealth.
“There’s no doubt that some farmers have already decided this has a place on their farm,” Swan said. “We anticipate them registering when we open the first week of March.”
The Farm Bureau has partnered with the Global Emissions Exchange to trade and sell the credits. The Farm Bureau is a ‘middle man’ that, for a fee, will facilitate sign-ups and contracting, Swan said.
The trading system allows farmers who reduce carbon dioxide emissions by minimally disturbing the soil to sell the value of the carbon retained in the ground for a premium on the Exchange.
According to the Farm Bureau, keeping carbon in the soil is highly attractive to industries such as utility companies and manufacturers, known for carbon emissions. Many of those companies voluntarily buy carbon credits from farmers to offset their emissions and negative environmental impact in preparation for a time when carbon offsets will become mandatory.
“We see [carbon credit trading] as a way of introducing to agriculture a new concept for the long-term future. Revenue is not going to be all that great for all farms, but there’s no up-front investment on the part of the farmer except agreeing to certain practices,” Swan said.
In an example provided by the Farm Bureau and Exchange, a farmer with 100 acres of no-till crops and 100 acres of permanent grasslands selling a carbon contract at $3.50 per metric ton stands to make just over $400 profit per year by signing a contract. Contracts last three years.
The program is open to all landowners in Pennsylvania, but Farm Bureau members get the additional benefit of lower trading fees.
Swan also noted the current market price, which fluctuates daily like any commodity market, is just over $2 per metric ton.
“For a lot of larger farms, this is a no-brainer for them,” Swan said.
“A farmer doesn’t have to do anything or invest anything except his time and a three-year contract.”