More than 2,300 farmers and ranchers will receive checks in the mail this week for capturing and storing carbon dioxide in their soil through the National Farmers Union Carbon Credit Program.

National Farmers Union President Tom Buis said total earnings from no-till and seeded grassland offsets generated $5,876,825 in income for 2006 and 2007 practices. To date $8 million has been earned by producers since the voluntary program began in late 2006.

“As conservation leaders, we know agriculture can play an important part in offsetting greenhouse gases in our environment today,” Buis said. “Now, through innovative soil stewardship activities and the carbon offsets market through the Chicago Climate Exchange, producers are being rewarded for their environmental stewardship.”

This pool of enrollments sequestered carbon dioxide from 2.8 million acres using no-till cropping practices and by converting cropland to long term grass stands, as in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres. After third-party verification of the enrolled acres, the tons were registered and sold on the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) over the last several months. That amount of stored carbon dioxide offsets the estimated annual emissions of 320,000 automobiles.

NFU was joined by Sens. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and CCX Vice President Will Ferretti at a Capitol Hill press conference today announcing the earnings and in support of Congressional efforts to allow America’s farmers the opportunity to play a role in addressing climate change.

“As stewards of our environment, farmers and growers are at the forefront of our national conservation efforts,” said Sen. Stabenow. “Empowering our agricultural sector to reduce greenhouse gases can create jobs and spur economic growth, while combating the climate change crisis facing our nation.”

“When it comes to reducing harmful carbon pollution and addressing global warming, America’s farmers and ranchers can and want to be part of the solution,” said Sen. Salazar. “Through this innovative program, we can help build a new, clean energy future that has its roots in America’s farms and fields. It’s a win-win for our agricultural producers who are always seeking new markets for their goods and services, and for consumers and citizens who recognize the need to act now to mitigate the potential impacts of a changing global climate.”

“We believe the role agriculture and forestry can play in combating global warming is enormous. The National Farmers Union and CCX share a common vision in creating market-based incentives that promote long term sustainability of America’s farmland. We are honored and proud to work with them through efforts of NFU to build this environmental market,” said Dr. Richard L. Sandor, Chairman and CEO of CCX. “We are also glad that Senators Lugar, Stabenow and Salazar are fully engaged in supporting these initiatives so American farmers are better able to capitalize on the developing greenhouse gas emission markets.”

Farmers Union was approved as an aggregator for the CCX to pool and market carbon offsets in 2006 and has since become one of the largest providers of agricultural soil carbon offsets to the CCX. The CCX is the world’s first greenhouse gas emissions registry, reduction and trading system, trading more than 86 million tons of carbon offsets to date.

Over the next three to five years, these farmers and ranchers will receive annual payments based on the acres they have enrolled and the price of the offsets traded. In addition to no-till and seeded grass offsets, credits can also be earned with prescribed grazing on native rangeland, tree planting projects, and methane capture projects. Additional pools of these offsets will be marketed in the coming months, he said.

While enrollment is ongoing, the next pool deadlines will be August 1 for the prescribed rotational grazing offsets and August 15 for no-till/seeded grass offsets. The program is entirely voluntary, but contracts are considered legally binding once signed.

Source: National Farmers Union press release