Vindicated Value: incentivizing carbon capture by providing a market value

Now that we are seeing more details from Washington on conservation and carbon, farm leaders are weighing in. We spoke with the past president of the National Farmers Union, and he shared his perspective on some of the top priorities.

As the climate conversation continues, the question becomes how to move forward with policy and incentives.

Roger Johnson, former National Farmers Union president and current co-chair of the Carbon 50 project, says that carbon capture has value.

According to Johnson, “If you want less carbon in the atmosphere you have to incentivize folks to take carbon out of the atmosphere and the most powerful way of incentivizing in this country is to provide some sort of a market value on removing carbon from the atmosphere.”

He says that the North Dakota Farmers Union tried to set up a carbon credit program around fifteen years ago, as a way to incentivize farmers to move towards conservation.

“Now ultimately, that experiment which really blossomed and grew rapidly because of immense interest from farmers from around the country, it ultimately failed because there was no national structure that said here’s what things are worth,” he states.

The Senate Agriculture Committee has introduced the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which could set the foundation for a national carbon market through the USDA.

Johnson agrees that USDA is the right agency for the job: “USDA is probably the very best entity to sort of do that, to do that science and then to set up the sort of structure that says, ‘yes, if you do these following practices, you will sequester X tons of carbon,’ and that can provide some certainty to a market to companies that want to buy carbon credits to offset their carbon footprint.”

Alongside the efforts to create a carbon market, the administration has also introduced the “America the Beautiful” plan to conserve 30 percent of U.S. land by 2030. While reaction to the proposal has been mixed, Johnson reminds folks it is still just a proposal.

“You get proposals from the administration, that’s what this is and then Congress gets it and they say this part is good or we don’t like this part but we have a different idea over here, and so you put all those things together,” he adds.

Also, he is calling on lawmakers to work together to create meaningful policy that can protect the land for American agriculture.


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