Carbon markets more accessible, easy to use in U.S. vs. Canada

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

How many farmers do you know currently participating in a carbon market exchange?

The number is likely small, if any, as the Canadian carbon credit market has been slow to establish in the current regulatory climate here.

In the U.S., however, there are several players in the voluntary market, and accessibility of these programs seems much more straightforward. One of these companies, Indigo Ag, spoke with RealAgriculture founder Shaun Haney at Commodity Classic, held earlier this month in Florida.

Ryan Stockwell, with Indigo, explains that changes in agronomic practices may qualify to generate carbon credits, whether that be a reduction in tillage, an addition of another crop in rotation, or the use or added use of  cover crops, for example.

Indigo uses a five-year initial contract model, but recognizes that things don’t always go exactly to plan each year. “We have real world challenges of dealing with the weather. So if you come across a situation where you just can’t get that cover crop planted that year, that’s okay. There are no penalties in our program. We are not going to try to claw back or get anything back. We recognize that so we try to maintain that flexibility for the producer,” he says.

Flexibility is a key component of the contract, but there are some parameters farmers must work within to be eligible for carbon credit payments.

“We try to maintain flexibility for our producers, in terms of restriction. One is a very obvious: you can’t be enrolled in multiple carbon programs at the same time. We have to maintain that integrity for the sake of the market so that the buyers still have that trust in that carbon credit system,” he says. (Story continues after the interview.)

There is an auditing process for those enrolled, as well, including spot audits to verify practices, but Stockwell adds that farmers that enroll tend to stick with the program. He says Indigo has about a 90%-plus retention rate for growers participating in the program.

“We’re also seeing not only are they staying in the program, they’re adding acres to it. And because they’re in the program for multiple years, they’re actually seeing the natural course of the soil carbon sequestration process. They’re generating more and more carbon credits every year. So we’re seeing all those numbers go up, the longer that they’re in the program,” he says.

Those interested in estimating what credits they may generate can use a calculator on Indigo Ag’s website for more information.

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