BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Rancher Terry Ulrich will reap about $6,000 this week for helping protect the planet from global warming.
Ulrich is one of about 630 farmers and ranchers who are getting checks from the North Dakota Farmers Union for using no-till farming practices or growing grasses to limit the release of carbon dioxide from the ground.
‘It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to pay off a big chunk of my property taxes — and it benefits the land,’ he said.
The state Farmers Union on Monday announced $2 million in payments to North Dakota farmers and ranchers who enrolled acreage in the program, which began last year. They are the first in the nation to receive such payments.
The program pools carbon credits for sale on the Chicago Climate Exchange, a private agency that trades greenhouse gases and other pollutants just as other exchanges trade such commodities as crops and livestock.
Dale Enerson, the director of the carbon credit program for the North Dakota group as well as the National Farmers Union, said it has been expanded to 330,000 acres in 14 other states in the past year, with more than 600 farmers from those states signing up.
About $500,000 in carbon credits is traded daily on the Chicago Climate Exchange, representing some 125,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, said Michael Walsh, the trading system’s senior vice president.
‘A half-million bucks a day is not the Board of Trade, but it’s a start,’ Walsh said. ‘We are doing 100 times that a day in Europe.’
North Dakota Farmers Union President Robert Carlson said about 650,000 tons of carbon dioxide was sequestered under the state program last year — about the equivalent of the carbon emissions from more than 130,000 cars.
Those carbon dioxide credits were sold in blocks earlier this year and fetched an average of about $3.70 cents a metric ton, Carlson said.
When soil is tilled with farm machinery, carbon is released from the soil into the atmosphere. No-till cultivation greatly reduces the amount of carbon released because it disturbs the soil only along a slit or hole into which seeds are planted.
No-till farming is being used on about 8 million of the 30 million acres of cropland in North Dakota, Enerson said. About 830,000 acres are enrolled under the state carbon credit program, Carlson said.
‘That’s only 10 percent of what’s potentially available in North Dakota, so we are only scratching the surface,’ Carlson said.
Gov. John Hoeven called the carbon credit program ‘timely and innovative.’
‘This is the kind of innovation that helps our farmers and ranchers,’ Hoeven said.
Walsh said the Chicago Climate Exchange has about 300 member organizations that have voluntarily agreed to reduce their carbon emissions. The members include corporations, cities and a few universities, which can buy carbon credits to help offset their emissions, he said.
Carbon dioxide credits are fetching about $30 a metric ton in Europe, where countries have agreed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The United States refused to ratify the treaty and does not have a mandatory carbon dioxide emission cap.
Walsh, state officials and farmers believe the value of carbon credits in the United States will increase in time.
‘The value of carbon is going to go up,’ said Johnson, the state’s agriculture commissioner. ‘This is exactly the kind of future we should be envisioning and going after.’
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