National Farmers Union will expand acreage eligible for participation in the Carbon Credit Program, providing some income for farmers with no-till and grass acres.
2006 signup for North Dakota's Carbon Credit Program, in place ahead of the new National program, "Exceeded our expectations considerably," says North Dakota's Robert Carlton, who thought up the idea. "So we believe there will be a lot of interest in the other states as well."
The program will build on the success of North Dakota's program, expanding to include 14 total states in the Midwest and South. The voluntary program aims to reward farmers who reduce carbon dioxide emissions by keeping it stored in the soil.
Senators Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Dick Lugar, R-Ind., have already voiced support for NFU's teaming with the Chicago Climate Exchange. Lugar was the first farmer in Indiana to register his farm for the carbon exchange.
In North Dakota, Carlton says about 90% of enrolled acres are no-till and the remaining 10% grass, but the expanded program will also include provisions for trees. "Soil isn't the only way to capture carbon - woodlots and treefarms work the same way, and the Chicago Climate Exchange is on all those fronts."
The Chicago Climate Exchange is a preexisting voluntary program in which companies and individuals practicing methods of reducing carbon in the atmosphere can sell carbon credits to companies wishing to get credit for reducing their carbon emissions, groups or individuals buying credits to support the principle of emissions reduction, or those buying for speculative purposes.
Many countries control emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, under the Kyoto Treaty, but it is not regulated under current U.S. law. For this reason, payments to farmers would currently earn about $2 per acre of no-till, a lower figure than in programs in European Kyoto-compliant countries. However, new greenhouse gas laws would potentially raise the value of carbon credits, as it has in Europe.
National Farmers Union president Tom Buis stressed that the program includes no fees for farmers, only a 10% commission for the Farmers Union. The commission comes in because anyone dealing carbon on the CCE is required to trade 14,500 tons, a number that few individuals can reach. The Farmers Union meets this number by packaging individual farmers' credits into blocks.
Farmers wishing to enroll or find more information can visit the National Farmers Union Web site at www.nfu.org. The deadline for farmers to receive both 2005 and 2006 credits - meaning twice the money per acre - is November 3. To find out more about the Carbon Credit Program, including a map of eligible areas, visit www.nfu.org/issues/environment/carbon-credits/.