Just over a month into his presidency, President Joe Biden has already signed more than 50 executive orders into action. While the majority of these policies are focused on the pandemic and immigration, the environment is also a key focus of the new president. President Biden has significant plans for reducing emissions and combatting climate changes, and farmers are certain to play a role in that.
In his climate plan, President Biden states, “America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have an important role to play in combating the climate crisis and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by sequestering carbon in soils, grasses, trees, and other vegetation.”
Agriculture’s impact on the environment has become an increasingly popular topic. This has resulted in many farmers, as well as Ag companies like Cargill, taking numerous actions to create a more sustainable future for farming. This includes improving water efficiency, protecting local water supplies, limiting the use of synthetic fertilizers, relying less on tillage, and more.
Eco-friendly farming not only helps protect the environment, but it also has numerous benefits for farmers themselves. These actions can restore soil health, protect local water supplies, increase pollinator presence, and boost crop yields. For those who hunt and/or let others hunt on their lands, these actions also increase the presence of wildlife.
However, implementing these practices can also come with significant overhead. No-till farming requires specialized equipment. Reducing the use of synthetic fertilizers may require the use of costlier alternatives. Establishing water protecting measures such as buffer strips comes at a cost while also shrinking available land.
The new administration is actively working towards ways of further incentivizing these actions and reducing the costs associated with them.
Monetizing Emission Reduction
In order to get farmers onboard with the new administration’s aggressive environmental goals, support will need to be provided. Arguably the most popular method for providing this support is by placing a price on carbon reduction. US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen says, “We cannot solve the climate crisis without effective carbon pricing.”
While there are carbon markets in select areas of the country, there is a lack of cohesive pricing, transparency, and accessibility across the board. This is especially true for farmers, who currently have to work through larger organizations if they wish to enter an existing market. Experts say a more formalized system needs to be established in order for a carbon market to thrive.
“One possibility is through a carbon bank,” says USDA climate advisor Robert Bonnie. A carbon bank would allow the USDA to draw on funding to help finance climate-smart land management practices. It could also establish market pricing for carbon credits, paying farmers a consistent price for every ton of carbon they keep out of the air.
Currently, the USDA has the Commodity Credit Corporation, which essentially acts as their own financial institute. Through the CCC, the USDA can spend $30 billion before needing replenishment from congress. They may be able to utilize these funds to help pilot a carbon bank program and spearhead carbon reducing initiatives.
From there, a more structured/independent system could be introduced in a future farm bill.
Meanwhile, individual states are looking for their own solutions. Virginia is working on a bill that would create a task force to examine and create carbon sequestration initiatives. California is considering legislation that would require the state to set sequestration goals and establish a registry for projects relating to this goal. Oregon is investigating how they actively sequester carbon in forests, soil, and other lands.
While we wait for a more formalized carbon market to be established, sequestration can still be beneficial for farmers. Not only is sequestering carbon good for the environment, but it’s good for soil health, plant life, and farming as a whole. Still, there is the matter of cost.
One option currently available that can offset the cost of carbon sequestration is the Conservation Reserve Program. In exchange for taking marginal farmland out of active production and establishing native vegetation, CRP provides market-based rental payments for the land. Additionally, the program covers a significant portion of the conversion cost.
CRP land is highly effective at sequestering carbon. If you’re interested in joining CRP, our parent company can help. FDCE provides full-service CRP solutions that include seed purchasing, planting, herbicide application, report submission, and more. They can also assist with the initial program selection and onboarding. Click here to visit their website.
Alternatively, if you plan to establish CRP yourself, we can provide you with high-quality CRP seed. All of our seed has been reprocessed for enhanced purity and tested for harmful weeds and other contaminants. To maximize your germination rates and ensure a successful establish, purchase your CRP seed from All Native Seed.