The US Department of Agriculture is to give green group Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and its partners a $960,000 grant to help develop fertilizer offset protocols, the latest in a trend for the US to advance the agricultural sector’s participation in carbon markets.
The money will also be used to help almond and corn farmers use fertilisers more efficiently, improve soil health, and cut N2O emissions, EDF said in a statement.
“This project will demonstrate how growers implementing enhanced nitrogen management processes on both annual and perennial crops can participate in carbon markets, setting the stage for significant reductions in nitrous oxide emissions,” said Sara Kroopf, agricultural project manager at EDF.
“This is a win-win for the environment and for growers’ bottom lines.”
US FARM ACTION
The project builds upon the first ever carbon offset protocol for crop-based agriculture in a cap-and-trade market, approved for rice growers earlier this year by the California Air Resources Board (ARB).
This was followed shortly after by the approval of a new grasslands protocol in the voluntary market, developed by the Climate Action Reserve, which rewards farmers for avoiding the conversion of grasslands to cropland.
In April, the US launched a voluntary programme giving grants, low-interest loans and technical assistance to help farmers cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 120 million tonnes of CO2e per year, or around 2% of the country’s annual output.
Despite this, the Union of Concerned Scientists has criticised the US, along with the EU, for doing less than some developing nations in their INDCs to tackle agriculture emissions.
US agriculture and forestry are estimated to account for 516 million tonnes of CO2e in 2013, or around 9% of the national total.
EDF said farmers spend up to half of their input costs on fertiliser, even though on average only half of the fertilizer applied is absorbed by crops. The excess runs off into waterways where it can lead to algae blooms and decreased water quality, and is released into the air in the form of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO2.
“Agriculture, like every other industry, contributes to the climate problem. But the expansion of environmental markets provides an opportunity for farmers to participate in the climate solution.” said Robert Parkhurst, agriculture greenhouse gas markets director at EDF.
EDF will work with growers across the US to develop a multi-farmer pilot project which aims to demonstrate how growers can alter practices to prevent nitrogen losses to the air, and support the approval of an ARB compliance-grade offset protocol which, once adopted, will enable growers earn credits for use in California’s market.
By Ben Garside – firstname.lastname@example.org