Report: Invest In Proven Federal Programs, Not Carbon Markets

Cover Cropping to Improve Climate Resilience. Photo credit: NRCS

New NSAC Report On Climate Solutions For Farmers: Invest In Proven Federal Programs

The climate crisis is reaching a crucial tipping point. What is the best way to influence farmers’ practices on the scale and in the timeframe needed to address the climate crisis?

Some influential players find carbon markets tempting but carbon markets’ poor track record suggests that this approach is unlikely to result in significant net decarbonization. In their new report, CLIMATE SOLUTIONS FOR FARMERS: Invest in Proven Federal Programs, Not Carbon Markets, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition outlined some key concerns about the increasing focus on carbon markets in agriculture, and better alternatives.

Carbon markets are a system where farmers can voluntarily integrate climate-friendly practices (processes that may contribute to carbon sequestration) to generate “credits” that are then purchased by industries to offset the pollution they create. But, as NSAC’s report notes, carbon markets are problematic:

  • Carbon markets have a record of failure to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Carbon markets may worsen racial and economic inequities
  • Carbon markets do more to enrich industry than help farmers
  • Carbon markets are at odds with science
  • Carbon markets undermine holistic agricultural solutions.

Instead of carbon markets, policymakers should invest in programs with the longest successful track record of addressing on-farm stewardship – the farm bill conservation, research, renewable energy, and rural development programs – as the primary strategy to advance and scale up climate beneficial farming practices. 

We should prioritize investing public funds to equip farmers and ranchers to address climate change by

  • reforming and expanding existing federal research and conservation programs, including the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
  • ensuring that these programs fully serve small, mid-size, diversified operations, as well as BIPOC and beginning farmers and ranchers providing greater technical assistance to farmers and ranchers prioritizing soil health and water quality
  • supporting transition to livestock production systems based on advanced grazing management
  • supporting whole-farm approaches to climate stewardship including transition to organic agriculture, agroforestry, and crop-livestock integrated systems
  • incentivizing on-farm renewable energy production, including solar, wind, and geothermal
  • minimizing food loss and waste.

Congress has solutions at it’s finger tips. The Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA) and the Climate Stewardship Act are two pieces of legislation that call for increased investments in existing programs and structures and create the framework for a farmer-focused, research-driven path to net zero agriculture. 

Read NSAC’s report here.