Selling carbon credits

One of our land renters, Chris, is selling carbon credits to Viterra. He needs us, as the land owners, to sign the agreement, which we have no problem with.

But it did rekindle my curiosity in the whole carbon offset issue. Chris said that we should be eligible to sell the credits for the years we still worked the land from 2002 to 2005, as we used reduced or minimum tillage systems on it.

One pass with low disturbance openers for anhydrous in the fall, a second pass with low disturbance openers to seed in spring can qualify for no-till requirements for carbon credits. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

One pass with low disturbance openers for anhydrous in the fall, a second pass with low disturbance openers to seed in spring can qualify for no-till requirements for carbon credits. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Money was the final impulse for the research I’d been meaning to do for some time. Not that it’s big money – Viterra is paying $1.56/acre/year for no-till practices on black soil – but hey, that’s still a nice Christmas present…

The manager of our local Viterra office told me that many farmers are against selling credits to companies. They feel that the whole scheme is just an enabling device for companies to continue their poor environmental practices. He tells farmers that companies are going to buy credits anyway, so they may as well profit by it.

There are various eligible areas where farmers can possibly sell carbon credits – afforestation, beef days on feed, biofuels, composting, no till or reduced tillage are some of them. The credits can be retroactive to 2002.

Bill Chapman, of Alberta Agriculture, tells farmers to wait a little yet. “There hasn’t been enough trading in carbon credits to see if there’s any value in it,” he says. Many companies buy credits through brokers. By the time the broker has been paid, and the auditor you need to comply with the protocol, there isn’t much left for the farmer.

I think that’s why Viterra’s price is quite low. They’ve taken all that out of it already, and present the farmer with a pretty straight forward agreement. Of course, it still gives Viterra far more rights than the farmers, or so it seems to me. But it’s something the average farmer can read, understand, and feel pretty safe about.

If you’re interested in making some extra money, and you’re using reduced tillage or no tillage systems already, it might be worth looking into.

There’s a lot of information on these two sites: www.atai.ca (the protocol for credits for tillage practices, in PDF format) and carbonoffsetsolutions.climatechangecentral.com.

I found though, that much of the information is confusing. I also found that I’m not the only one confused. It’s still a new concept, constantly changing and adapting.

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