Agriculture Carbon Trading

Tom Miles

Agriculture Carbon Trading

David Yarrow, May 21, 2008

spent all day at a workshop on trading carbon credits for agriculture at the albany county cooperative extension office. the workshop was targeted for government staff and educators who advise farmers, and farmers themselves. it seems this is a step in the complex process of gearing up for RGGI ( -- the regional greenhouse gas
initiative cap and trade carbon exchange involving 10 northeast & mid-atlantic states -- which will be implemented beginning 2009. considerable effort was required to get complete agreement from all 10 states on standards, protocols and policies, but the system is open to admit new states.

RGGI is currently being set up for
large electric power producers, since they account for 24% of GHG
emissions, and represent just a few players who are easy to organize and induce to participate. beginning next year, each state will impose emissions caps, focusing on the three principal GHGs: CO2, CH4 (23x C equiv) and N2O (289x C equiv). power plants that reduce emissions under the cap will have "allowances" to sell. power producers that exceed their cap will have to purchase allowances or offsets. the first auction will take place later this year.

farms can qualify to sell
"offsets" to emitters as credits against excess emissions, primarily by sequestering C. offsets must be: REAL, ADDITIONAL, VERIFIABLE, ENFORCEABLE, and PERMANENT. but only three strategies for farms will be recognized:

1) avoided or destroyed methane
(primarily from anerobic manure handling)

2) afforestation (replanting land
with no recent history with trees)

3) conservation grassland (no
till, except ridge till & planting grassland set asides, no hay or

in addition, farms can qualify for
renewable energy credits by converting from fossil to renewable fuels.

i am disappointed, but not
surprised, RGGI doesn't recognize any soil sequestration strategy except
conservation grassland. after all, soil is the start and end of the C
cycle, and stores 2.5 times more C than plant biomass, and more
than the atmosphere. yet, no credit is offered for raising soil
organic matter (SOM), largely because such C storage sinks are not permanent, ony remove C for 5 to 25 years, depending on the biomass source -- leaves vs. stems & stalks vs. tree trunks -- and are hard to quantify and verify. and also, RGGI rules currently offer no recognition of the win-win-win strategy of C sequestration with biochar, which removes C for at least centuries, and likely millennia.

during the day, two questions came up from the audience about "charcoal in soil" and "black carbon," but not one speaker knew more than the least about biochar, and none realized that char's reduced C is retained in soil for centuries, or its effects on soil fertility, capacity and microbial complexity.

i handed out copies of the attached
papers, plus the Catalyst article on "Carbon Farmers,"
and brochures about SEA-90 sea minerals and "nutrient dense"
foods. i made two good contacts which will likely lead to biochar
workshops in NY this summer, and i will go talk to RGGI-NY staff in their albany office.

see the website below for further
details. click the "Learn" keyword to download facts sheets
from the C trading training workshop:

Carbon Trading

Opportunities for Agriculture

Carbon Trading:
Market Opportunities for Agriculture

Tuesday, May 20, 2008, free and open to
educators at
any of the 4 sites:

New York (live); Greensburg, PA (videoconference);

DE (videoconference); Boscawen, NH (videoconference)

workshop for the Northeast on
Carbon Trading -- a method to reduce
global greenhouse gas emissions by allowing market mechanisms to find the most
cost-effective way to reduce emissions from a variety of sources. There
are opportunities for farm, forest and land management to participate in
greenhouse gas mitigation.

Carbon Trading: Market Opportunities for Agriculture is
hosted by Central New
York Resource Conservation and Development, Inc. (CNY RC&D)
funding from Northeast Sustainable
Agriculture Research and Education (NESARE)
. The objective is to give
agricultural educators a basic understanding of the complexities of carbon
trading, while providing them with a set of tools to educate farmers and
landowners about carbon trading.

This workshop is geared primarily to extension agents, soil and water
conservation district staff, USDA staff, and non-profit agricultural educators,
and is open to landowners and farmers as well.


  • Introduction to Cap & Trade and Agricultural