The last agricultural product: carbon credits

Indeed, the truly additional and permanent storage of carbon may be at odds with other financial considerations that govern the management of agricultural land. Changes in practices such as reducing fertilizer inputs and tillage can reduce crop yields, for example.

“You make maybe $ 20 an acre, at most, and a 20 cent increase in corn will impact your economy more than the credits,” said Jim Bunch, co-founder of Impact Delta, who advises investors on their environmental and social impact.

Chris Lehe, a farmer from Indiana, is working with Indigo to generate carbon credits for the no-till practices he uses on some of his 4,800 acres. Mr. Lehe has also experimented with cover crops, but after three years he’s wondering if he should continue. Planting them costs him $ 40 an acre, more than the practice is likely to generate carbon credits.

“You’re going to have a hard time convincing people to switch to cover crops for the carbon market,” said Lehe. “Our margins are tight as they are, and I don’t think the amount of income right now is enough to make guys change the way they farm for decades.”

Despite all these obstacles, business interest in agricultural offsets has remained stable. The Boston Consulting Group, which has pledged to reduce its net emissions to zero by 2030, is among the early buyers. In a statement, the company says it believes ground-based offsets hold promise and that clear investment and demand signals are needed for standards and practices to improve.

Mr. Goldberg of Carbon Direct said he has helped clients purchase ground-based offsets, but only from sources where there is a clear path to improving standards and protocols.

“Where we need to be for climate and carbon elimination, none of the verticals alone will be enough,” he said. “We don’t have enough forests and we don’t have enough capacity to change soils. They all have to work and they all have different tradeoffs.

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