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Carbon sequestration program pays producers to sign up acres

Written by Steve Miller

By Steve Miller, WLR Correspondent 

Laramie – Wyoming producers have a second opportunity to participate in a program that sticks carbon in the ground and money in their pockets.
    Producers in the state from August to October signed up about 30,000 acres into a carbon sequestration program through the Farmers Union Carbon Credit Program, says Tony Frank, renewable energy development director for Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU).
    Enrollment is open again. Producers sign five-year contracts with the Chicago Climate Exchange (www.chicagoclimatex.com/), which includes member entities seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. CCE members include companies, cities, counties and even a beer company. Income is derived by using various conservation practices on land to offset carbon produced by participating CCE members.
    Producers can enroll through the Farmers Union Carbon Credit Program (http://carboncredit.ndfu.org/) made possible through a partnership between Rocky Mountain and North Dakota Farmers Unions. The Farmers Union acts as an aggregator for producers interested in the program. Producers do not have to be Farmers Union members. Colorado has had about 200,000 acres signed up.
    “I think producers may be looking at this as primarily a supplemental income stream,” says Scott Zimmerman of Pine Bluffs, governmental affairs and lobbyist for RMFU. “It’s not going to make anyone rich by any stretch. We bill it as a way to pay property taxes on dry land or rangeland. That’s a generalization. Everybody’s taxes are different.”
    Practices include long-term grass seeding, conservation tillage, rangeland practices, forestry and methane management. Of the 30,000 acres in Wyoming, about 29,000 were entered using rotational grazing and moderate stocking rates, says Frank. The other 1,000 acres were entered using no-till practices.
    Not all counties are eligible for the various programs. Interested producers can access http://carboncredit.ndfu.org/ at which producers can enter information to determine if they or their county are eligible. A calculator on the site determines their potential income.
    The payment, on average, has been about $2.50 per-acre per-year for long-term grass practices, says Frank. Other practices may not get as much per acre. The price is based on sequestering one metric ton of carbon. That price may vary as entities on the CCE increase or decrease their own carbon footprints or how many join the CCE, says Frank.
    “This is a market-based approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; price will vary from year to year,” he says.
    Potential payments in one county may differ from another, says Zimmerman. “The figures are based on climate and elevation, precipitation, length of growing season – growing conditions that determine how much carbon can be sequestered,” he says.
    CCE verifies the acres signed up exist and, through aerial photography, that practices the producer described are being pursued.
    For more information about the program, contact Scott Zimmerman at 307-245-9347, or Tony Frank at 303-752-5800.