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Carbon Markets: Farmers Want More To Hang Their Hat On

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The carbon market will grow over the next three years
Farm Journal’s August 2021 Carbon Survey found that 3.32% of respondents were participating in an non-governmental carbon market, up from an Ag Barometer last spring where only 1% of farmers had entered into a contract. And 55% of survey respondents said that they plan on joining the market in the next three years.

Money in the dirt?
While the carbon market is poised for growth, there are some lingering issues. Almost half of the respondents to Farm Journal’s Carbon Survey said they would need a return on investment of more than $20,000  to participate in carbon markets.

Many respondents said that the available programs were only paying on newly adopted practices and not pre-existing practices. Others thought their operation was too small to count or that the expenses required to adopt new practices would not be offset by the return on investment. A few viewed the carbon markets as a means for others to make money and said they didn’t see how it benefited them.

It’s time for carbon markets to roll up their sleeves. There’s work to do.
Farmers also struggle to trust the motives behind the carbon market. Respondents to Farm Journal’s Carbon Survey cited fears that markets could lead to regulations that unfairly penalize them or create circumstances where they lose control over their operation.

Many of farmers said they don’t have enough information to adequately understand the opportunity, find programs in their area or find information on how to apply. The good news: they’re looking for reputable sources for more information.

How to increase farmers’ trust
Some trust issues can be overcome by having university extensions verify compliance with carbon market program requirements, according to Farm Journal’s Carbon Survey. Farmers expressed a preference for a third party that would not directly benefit from the outcome of their findings or create penalties.

So what about the things that farmers are already doing?
Another way to build trust may be to answer a key objection raised by farmers and give them credit for practices they already have in place. Many farmers report they’re already engaging in conservation practices, with conservation tillage practices topping the list. See the chart below.

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