Carbon Credits


Over the last decade, consumer-driven trends have made a large impact on society’s expectations and actions as the result of social media and other additional outlets of communication. In conjunction, government policy and tax credits also play a large role determining the actions of an individual and businesses. In the interest of an organization’s carbon footprint, new programs have started to emerge in order to receive benefits for reducing one’s footprint. So when we hear words like “carbon credit” it leads to a questions like the following:

  • What is a carbon credit?
  • How do carbon credits relate to agriculture?
  • How does this relate to climate change?
  • Why should local producers or my local cooperative be involved?

What is a carbon credit?

A carbon credit is when an individual does something that takes the equivalent of one ton of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere or makes a change that prevents the release of the equivalent of one ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Those two things are called sequestration and emissions avoidance respectively. A carbon credit needs to be measurable, trackable, be related to a new practice and be permanent. Some examples would be creating a process that replaces propane with methane from manure, planting a cover crop to take carbon dioxide out of the air and store it in the soil, or reducing tillage to reduce decomposition of organic matter which releases carbon dioxide. If these practices can be measured, tracked, and registered then a carbon credit can be produced and sold to a buyer who may want to purchase credits to offset emissions they may produce. An example might be a commercial airline, or a coal or natural gas fired power plant.

How do carbon credits relate to agriculture?

In all the examples above a farmer created a carbon credit. A livestock producer captured manure methane to replace propane, a crop farmer planted cover crops, or a crop farmer reduced their tillage operations. In agriculture we work every day with the miracle of photosynthesis. Mother nature created plants which use sunlight to harvest carbon dioxide out of the air and water out of the soil to produce sugars which become the building blocks of the plants that eventually feed the animals both of which return to the soil. Using this process to capture carbon dioxide and maximize the storage of the carbon compounds created in the soil is how we sequester carbon in agriculture.                     

How does all of this relate to
climate change?

Concerns about climate change are generally related to increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. These gases tend to trap heat and increase warming of the earth. Agriculture has an impact on many of these greenhouse gases. By adjusting our practices, we can reduce the levels of these gases in the atmosphere. By doing more than our share we can receive credits from industries that find it very expensive or impractical to make similar changes to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

What is Agronomy? Nutrient Stewardship

Watch the video to learn more about taking care of our resources.

Why should local producers o my local cooperative be involved?

Many time growers can make incremental changes that will have a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions more economically than other industries. Because of this efficiency those industries may be willing to pay a grower to make those changes. Food companies may also be willing to pay a premium to farmers or livestock producers that can prove their grain or livestock were produced with lower emissions. Biofuel companies may be willing to pay a premium as well so they can show that their ethanol or biodiesel has lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The local cooperative sells growers the inputs needed for their crops and livestock. They often help the producer market their farm products. Because they handle much more grain and inputs then the individual producer it often makes sense for the cooperative to track the information needed to prove sustainable production practices and produce carbon credits.

Carbon credits, Low Carbon Fuel Standards, and sustainably produced food are all subjects receiving a lot of attention over the last few years. Progressive farmers will understand the demand the market has for these things and work to maximize their profitability related to this area. Central Valley Ag will work with our producers, customers, and outside companies to make sure we are finding opportunities for our grower to receive additional value for their crops, livestock, and farming practices.

Source: Tim Mundorf, Central Valley Ag Cooperative, 2022

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