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USDA funding carbon storing pilot for market

Carbon storing

Cover crops and diversity in cropping systems such as cover crops planted between corn rows are practices that contribute to carbon storing.

A carbon storing pilot program from the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program would provide North Dakota and Minnesota producers, along with Arkansas and Virginia producers, funding for conservation projects.

Virginia Tech was the award recipient from the Rural Investment to Protect our Environment (RIPE) and was awarded $80 million for the pilot program to last three years. At least $3 million will be targeted for North Dakota.

North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU) is the North Dakota partner for the program.

“There are a lot of different concepts on how to store carbon in the soil, and endless companies are paying for producers to try conservation programs. USDA is trying to find the best way that the market system can take care of this and provide a benefit for storing carbon in the soil,” said Mark Watne, NDFU president.

Watne said under the grant, criteria will be determined as to what fits the pilot project.

“They were awarded a grant to put together a program that would use some specific guidelines to pay farmers so much an acre to continue or add some type of a conservation program,” he said.

He pointed out that with all the carbon storing programs out there, it is going to be “the wild, wild west” for a while as the “concepts are just all over the ballpark.”

The pilot program is expected to begin in spring 2023.

“NDFU will be part of making determinations of who will be eligible to participate,” Watne said. “All the details are not out yet, but it is coming.”

Many of these carbon market programs are choosing to include North Dakota as one of the participant states.

“I think they are choosing North Dakota because we may have more of a capacity to do it. We grow a lot of different crops here, and we’ve adopted no-till, minimum-till, strip-till and we are already doing some of the stewardship,” he said.

RIPE and its partners will pay farmers and ranchers $100 per acre or animal unit for stewardship practices that deliver public value through carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas reduction, improved soil health, nutrient management, water quality, water conservation and others.

Because it is a pilot program, it is likely only a few North Dakota counties will be allowed to participate in the initial award.

“This is mainly a pilot program, but if it works out it could be a broad-based program for the future,” Watne said.

Watne said NDFU is planning to hold a Carbon Summit in January at the NDFU office. It is possible it may be a webinar, as well.

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