From the Farm: A carbon-farming partnership

The Morning Show

(WCIA) — The success of any effort to slow climate change will depend largely on agriculture.

Ag. Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a couple of weeks ago that his carbon bank program would prevail over a carbon market program. However, Indigo’s Head of Carbon Programs Chris Harbourt says there is room for both.

“A good fit for us, and if we think about the practices that are most impactful on atmospheric climate change, and trying to use agriculture as a way to address some of the climate challenges, a clear way is to implement the cover crop, look to no tillage or reduced tillage techniques, change the way in which nitrogen fertilizers are applied, both in timing and amount,” Harbourt says. “So any government effort into supporting a grower, in some of those changes, there’s real financial impact for that.

“To go out and buy a cover crop you have to buy the seed, you have to figure out a way to plant it. There are real costs involved in that. Now there are real benefits — long term — from that practice.

“Implementation of cover crops has shown over the years to be very helpful in terms of profitability of a farm, but it also qualifies you for a carbon program. So there is a dual outcome there of both the government to be involved, but also a way for the carbon program get off the ground and help the growers in that first year and that second year when the costs are high and they are not seeing all the agronomic benefit yet. They will see those benefits in years three, four, and five.”

So Harbourt envisions Indigo’s carbon program in partnership with any government-funded conservation program.

“Absolutely,” he says, “and I think, working together, that’s a great outcome, and a better outcome than just some payments that come to farmers for participation in a pricing concept.”

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