Carbon program pays off
The North Dakota Farmers Union has launched a carbon credit program that pays farmers and fights pollution. "We have been told that agriculture can play an important role in addressing global warming," Robert Carlson, Farmers Union president, sai...
The North Dakota Farmers Union has launched a carbon credit program that pays farmers and fights pollution.
"We have been told that agriculture can play an important role in addressing global warming," Robert Carlson, Farmers Union president, said at a news conference Wednesday in Fargo. "Today we are taking the first real steps in our state to reward farmers."
The program works like this:
Carbon-emitting organizations, many of them manufacturers, are under pressure to reduce their carbon emissions, which have been linked to carbon dioxide and global warming.
About 200 of the organizations buy carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange that offset their emissions, said Nathan Clark, the exchange's economist.
North Dakota farmers, in turn, can enroll no-till cropland and grassland into the Farmers Union program. No-till farming disturbs the land as little as possible during planting.
Plants on the land will absorb carbon dioxide and store carbon in their roots. Because the land isn't tilled, the carbon isn't released back into the atmosphere.
Retaining the carbon is good for the soil, said Mark Liebig, soil scientist with the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan, N.D.
Once enough acres are enrolled, the Farmers Union will sell carbon credits through the Chicago Climate Exchange, the only voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction and trading system in North America.
The Farmers Union will collect the money and turn it over to participating farmers, minus a 10 percent commission it keeps for itself.
Paying farmers with money from carbon emitters has been discussed for years, but only recently became reality.
"This is no longer theoretical," Clark said.
Under the Farmers Union program, participating farmers can expect to receive about $1.50 per acre of no-till land and $2.50 per acre of grassland, based on current carbon credit prices, according to the farm group.
The first payments to farmers could come as soon as January 2007.
As many as 8.3 million acres of farmland in North Dakota appear to be eligible for the program, said J.R. Flores, state conservationist with the National Resources Conservation Service in Bismarck.
He described the program as "another way to showcase the adage, 'conservation pays.' "
Carlson said the Farmers Union doesn't have an acreage goal for the program.
His group hopes to expand the program into surrounding states.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530