Farmers can cash in on carbon credit selling program

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SALEM, Ohio – A new program is offering a financial incentive for farmers who are good environmental stewards.
The National Farmers Union
has partnered with the Chicago Climate Exchange to let farmers sell carbon credits from their farmland to Fortune 500 companies who need to offset their emissions.
Farmers get paid for their good work, and the companies pay up for their effects on the environment, explained Emily Eisenberg, communications director for the Farmers Union.
Exchange. The voluntary program was launched Oct. 9.
Credits can be sold by those doing no-till cropping, long-term grasslands, forestry, and other practices. These practices help store or “sequester” carbon and reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide is one of six greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, producing an increase in the temperature and global warming.
“Farmers can play a key role in helping address one of the biggest environmental challenges confronting our nation, and the world,” NFU President Tom Buis said.
Wide open. Farmers in any state can enroll, even if they’re not members of the national or state farmers union.
Immediate enrollment efforts will focus on the Corn Belt and Mississippi River corridor.
Part of the enrollment is an automatic membership to the farmers union, Eisenberg explained.
Eisenberg said the farmers union is simply a middle man in the process of selling the credits and acts as a facilitator to be sure producers are receiving their checks.
The program was piloted by the North Dakota Farmers Union, whose members have been selling carbon credits for a couple of months, Eisenberg said.
“Some farmers may have hundreds or thousands of acres they no-till already. Now they can get paid for what they’re already doing. This program doesn’t necessarily mean any changes,” have to be made, Eisenberg said.
Like selling crops. The Chicago Climate Exchange is the world’s first greenhouse gas emissions trading system.
It works on the same principles as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange or Chicago Board of Trade, where most farmers sell their commodities. Farmers contract to sell carbon credits on their property, and earn income based on the acres they have enrolled.
Prices fluctuate with the market. At the end of the trading day Oct. 6, prices for vintage 2006 and 2007 carbon contracts settled at $3.85 per ton.
Example. You’re not going to get rich on this, but selling carbon credits can add black ink to the farm’s balance sheet.
For example, just no-till cropping 250 acres – something many farmers are already doing – for a five-year contract can earn a farmer an easy $1,800, according to an estimator tool on the North Dakota Farmers Union Web site.
Make that 1,000 acres and the income rockets to $7,200 over five years.
Those numbers are figured with the assumption the land sequesters 0.4 tons of carbon per acre per year at a rate of $4 per ton.
In another hypothetical situation plugged into the estimator, seeding long-term grass on 20 acres would pay about $270.
Expectations. Eisenberg said farmers who enroll in the program before Nov. 1 can qualify to receive double payments.
“We’re expecting this to be very popular,” Eisenberg said. “We know people in agriculture want to do the right thing for the environment, and making a fair profit from it creates a win-win situation.”
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at amyers@farmanddairy.com.)

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