What does the path forward look like for equitable carbon market?

A group promoting sustainability in agriculture has made its recommendations for a USDA carbon market. The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance went to work in January to figure out the best path forward.

Agriculture leaders see USDA pilot programs as the next step in developing climate solutions on the farm. The National Farmers Union says that it would be difficult to build a carbon market without answering some of the broader questions first.

“We decided that there was a lot of information farmers and ranchers and forest owners need related to carbon sequestration, climate adaptation, and mitigation on their land and the pilot projects should really look at these broader issues,” National Farmers Union’s Jenny Hopkinson explains. “Certainly, the information can be useful to carbon markets, but it can also help inform USDA programs, state programs, and other efforts as we are looking to help farmers address climate change.”

In their updated recommendations, the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance says that USDA should focus on developing climate-smart infrastructure, reducing barriers to adoption of conservation practices, and creating a carbon credit accounting system.

“What it really boils down to is we need an effort to determine the tools, the climate-smart practices, and critical climate infrastructure that farmers, ranchers, and forest owners will need to adapt to mitigate the effects of climate change on their land,” according to Hopkinson.

American Farm Bureau Federation says that they listened to producer concerns and studied existing carbon markets to create the recommendations.

“You get very broad from where you see some of the private markets might be concentrated-- there’s questions just in those for some producers: how do we bring down some of the verification costs, how to treat early adopters, are there ways for USDA to address that?,” AFBF’s Andrew Walmsley states.

For the Environmental Defense Fund, another priority is ensuring that any markets that are developed are also equitable and accessible for producers.

“We heard a lot about gaps and barriers to participation. A market system may not offer opportunities to all, it may even increase inequities-- that’s especially true due to the diversity of farmers, as well as the diversity of farms and landscapes. Public policy can ensure that market benefits and access are equitable,” EDF’s Ben Thomas explains.

FACA also says that using pilot programs will help build confidence among producers and ensure climate mitigation is farmer-led and verifiable for businesses.


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