New USDA standards and tool help farmers cut emissions and earn offsets

Robert Parkhurst

Agriculture accounts for about 10 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions so it makes sense to look for innovative ways to lessen the sector’s impact.

Enter new and groundbreaking guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will help farmers develop new management practices and yield carbon offset that can translate into new revenue for producers.

It’s an important roadmap for sequestering and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from farms, ranches and forests – but it hinges on farmers being willing to participate in the project.

The carrot: Those who use a tool to quantify and measure their emissions may be able to use carbon markets to their advantage.

The USDA’s new Greenhouse Gas Report is accompanied by a sophisticated calculation tool called Comet-Farm that promises to make the report actionable. Using weather, location, crop and management data, Comet-Farm simulates often-complex agricultural situations to calculate greenhouse gas emissions and possible mitigation options.

This will help farmers establish baselines and shift to new practices such as no-till production systems that will, in turn, help them enter into a voluntary agreement with a carbon market.

Previously, insufficient data and lack of scientific consensus made it difficult for farmers and other landowners to calculate greenhouse gas fluxes from management practices

The new USDA standard is a win-win for landowners and the environment, reports EDF’s recently launched Growing Returns blog.

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