Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It’s Not Just about NoTillers & Carbon Sequestration!!

Farmer Post from: Dick Wittman, Past President, PNW Direct Seed Association and member of Ag Working Group on Carbon Markets

On February 9 I presented a Carbon Trading Overview to an Ag Executive Program including over 100 US and Canadian producers – some of the most diversified and brightest in our industry. A poll of the group prior to the session revealed that only two in the audience had pursued any effort to market carbon offsets. After a 4-hour educational workshop interest in carbon offset opportunities was in an explosive mode. These producers now see carbon trading has huge potential in areas that goes far beyond carbon sequestration and no till. Opportunity areas not commonly seen include generating offsets from: Precision Ag implementation (reduced fossil fuel, chemicals, fertilizer, and Nitrous Oxide), methane capture in dairies by using methane digesters and lagoon covers, offsets from renewable fuels displacing fossil fuel, and sequestration from CRP planting and forestry projects, just to name a few. In only a few minutes of discussion it was clear that we have only begun to define an array of innovative offset projects that could be developed to help deal with global warming concerns.

One progressive farm couple quickly assessed their potential “portfolio” of offset products looking at CRP, notilled acres, and interest in a dairy facility and quickly calculated a potential of $125,000 in potential carbon credits or offsets that could be marketed on their farm. Another highly diversified farmer from South Carolina was appalled that he had heard so little about carbon potential from the commodity organizations in which he was actively engaged. “Where have my folks been in helping us get on top of this (referring to Cotton Growers, Soybeans, Corn Growers, Wheat Growers, and Farm Bureau)? We’re not hearing about this in our conventions, newsletters, or common vehicles for communications with growers.” When told about efforts of the Ag Working Group on Carbon Markets, this farmer was ready and willing to engage in the national effort to influence climate change legislation and expand grower knowledge on carbon trading issues.

The lesson from this experience is that we’ve barely scratched the surface in efforts to engage politically and to educate producer constituencies. Climate change legislation looks like it is coming, and opponents are coming out of the woodwork with junk science and mythological misstatements aimed at discrediting agriculture as a source of offsets. To protect agriculture’s right to be a player in the climate change solution process, agriculture’s leadership organizations need to redouble efforts at national, regional and local levels to communicate the issues and engage in the legislative process.

Dick Wittman, Past President, PNW Direct Seed Association and member of Ag Working Group on Carbon Markets

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