Sep 19, 2022 - Business

Little Rock nonprofit aims to standardize climate benefits for farmers

Illustration of combine harvesters making a dollar sign in a field.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Farmers may soon have a way to get paid out of thin air, or rather what they don't put into thin air.

What's happening: Little Rock nonprofit Winrock International will lead a $20 million pilot project to develop a standardized climate-impact reporting platform for farmers.

Why it matters: It's estimated that agriculture contributes about 11% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., or about 24% globally.

  • While farmers have been adopting more climate-friendly practices in recent years, they lack a standard mechanism to record and capitalize their good works, Winrock's Mary Grady told Axios.

How it works: Grady leads Winrock's American Carbon Registry, the first private voluntary greenhouse gas (GHG) registry.

  • The new online registry will use standardized USDA data so when a farmer reports planting a cover crop on 50 acres, they'll get the same credit as a peer down the road.
  • Credits will accumulate into GHG certificates that can be issued and tracked.
  • A farmer will be able to sell those — much like a carbon offset — or they can package certificates with their commodity when sold, effectively giving the buyer and the buyer's buyer — Tyson Foods or Walmart, for example — credit that can be applied to corporate emissions goals.

What they're saying: "Our objective is to reduce the cost burden on farmers to adopt a wide variety of climate-smart practices and to streamline the verification of climate results," Grady said in a news release.

  • "The project will demonstrate how markets can deliver value directly to farmers by putting them in the driver’s seat," Grady added.
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