Getting Paid for Not Doing Anything

Bucks for Not PlowingWill farmers be paid for using no-till, reduced-till or other soil conservation practices?

That option may become part of Nebraska farmers' revenue stream in the future according to some in the agriculture and utility industries.

In fact, several Canadian energy companies have already agreed to purchase nearly 2.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emission reduction credits. Presently, only farmers in Iowa are participating in the Canadian purchasing experiment. The Canadian experiment is similar to carbon trading systems that may become common if industrial countries reach agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Capturing Carbon

In April, the World Bank announced its Prototype Carbon Fund had attracted 15 companies and six nations - Canada, Finland, Japan, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands - and $135 million in pledges. This fledgling carbon emissions trading program will use proceeds from the experimental effort to subsidize the cost of renewable energy.

The practice of using minimal soil disruption methods is also called carbon sequestration because carbon dioxide is released from the soil each time it is tilled. Sequestering more carbon in the soil could offset carbon dioxide produced by utilities using coal to produce electricity.

A brochure that deals with carbon sequestration in a broad and general way, Growing Carbon: A New Crop That Helps Agricultural Producers and Climate, Too, is now available at state USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offices, or by phone at 1-888-LANDCARE, or at the Soil and Water Conservation Society web site,

Because of a new law, LB 957, the Department of Natural Resources will begin to assess past and future carbon sequestration potential of agricultural lands. This assessment will establish a baseline for the carbon content in the soil and attempt to quantify the amount of carbon sequestered associated with each type of tilling and other practices, management systems and land uses.

Advisory Group Picked

The legislation also created a 14-member Carbon Sequestration Advisory Committee, including a representative from the Nebraska Energy Office. The Committee will advise the Natural Resources director, make recommendations to enhance the ability of agricultural landowners to participate in systems of carbon trading, encourage the production of educational materials regarding carbon sequestration on agricultural lands and identify areas for research.

For detailed information on the new law, LB957 can be found on the Unicameral's web site at

Return to the Spring 2000 Newsletter