Climate change is a hot topic, nationally and globally. Farmers are seeing increased precipitation and severe weather events impacting their operations. Both the state and federal governments are looking at several climate-related action plans, from Michigan’s MI Healthy Climate Plan to the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act moving through Congress. Proposed policies, programs and private market initiatives have impacts and opportunities across numerous industries, from agriculture to transportation.
Voluntary markets where farmers are paid to sequester carbon or provide other ecosystem services (water quality improvements, pollinator habitat, etc.) could mean additional revenue streams for farmers but should be evaluated in the context of individual farms. They are constantly evolving, but some components to consider include:
- Additionality: Do you have to adopt additional practices in order to get credit? In most cases, existing practices are not eligible for payments.
- Permanence: How long do you have to keep the carbon in the soil? Often this is a long-term commitment.
- Term: How long is the contract for?
- Payment: How much and when are you paid?
Thoughts to Consider
- How do we ensure farmers remain at the table to provide input for any climate change or sustainability discussions happening at the state or federal level?
- What meaningful, constructive policies and programs are needed to guarantee farmers get the credit they deserve for work already completed through conservation practices, when participating in voluntary ecosystem service programs (carbon sequestration, water quality, etc.), and to avoid unnecessary regulation?
- How could voluntary programs (whether through the private market or USDA) be better configured to incentivize farmers to participate?
Overview of Voluntary Markets (subject to change)