Getting beyond the carbon hype


Getting beyond the carbon hype

Many farmers are on a fact-finding mission to see how carbon markets can benefit their bottom line.

A new study aimed to get beyond the hype of carbon markets has found that farmers are interested in getting paid for conservation practices, but participation in carbon programs remains relatively low.

Seventy-two percent of farmers are aware of carbon offerings, but only three percent are enrolled in a carbon program.

Ben Gordon, carbon and ecosystem service portfolio leader with Corteva Agriscience, says they are finding that there are barriers to adopting practices like cover crops and reduced tillage that increase carbon sequestration.

“Farmers surveyed said there are barriers to understanding the agronomy, the equipment, and the return on investment (ROI) of the practices,” he says.

And, he says the price must be right to increase adoption.  

“When it gets to $40 a ton, over half of farmers are going to be interested in these practices,” he says. “In the last six months of Corteva’s carbon program, we’ve gone from a price target of $15 a ton to $30 a ton. We think that type of price increase will help move the needle on adoption and give farmers enough of a cushion that they can go try these things. We know there is agronomic risk at different times and want to help mitigate some of that and figure out what is right for which operation without the farmer taking a ton of risk.”

The survey was conducted online between June and July by an independent third-party on behalf of Corteva. More than 600 row crop farmers across 26 U.S. states were surveyed.

Corteva’s Carbon Initiative is expanding for the 2022 crop year.

Casey Onstot is the U.S. commercial leader for digital.

“What that ultimately means is that we are able to extract increased payments to farmers for practice changes that qualify for the program, and it really allows us additional flexibility to get more acres and farmers available,” he says. “…It’s really exciting. We have the farmer in mind and so if we can help the grower be more sustainable and bring a new revenue stream to their farm to de-risk and then implement some of these practices that’s really important.”

The pilot program was available in Indiana, Iowa, and Illinois. It is expanding to include Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The initiative will also now support 17 crops.

The expansion is supported by a strategic collaboration with Indigo Ag. Some benefits for 2022 include: Farmers will receive 75 percent of the credit; farmers could earn as much as $30 or more per credit; and farmers will get paid on eligible practice changes that were conducted post harvest of 2020.

Onstot says it all starts with agronomy.

“Implementing a practice that doesn’t work on a farm isn’t sustainable…starting with that baseline of agronomy is really important in answering the question ‘is this right for my farm,’” he says.

Brownfield spoke with Gordon and Onstot during the 2021 Farm Progress Show.

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Audio: Ben Gordon

Audio: Casey Onstot