Power plants, other industry could offer contracts to farmers in helping reduce carbon emissions

ative would allow private buyers to contract with private sellers.

But there is one big hurdle, according to the research economists. The current carbon market offers very limited prospects for farmers to make money. Existing prices suggest farmers could make 49 cents per acre for practicing conservation tillage and 74 cents per acre for planting grasses.

The prospects can only improve if the U.S. government enforces a greenhouse gas emission reduction plan, which would strengthen market prices or introduce funded programs that share part of the carbon sequestration cost, according to the researchers.

And such drastic measures enforcing carbon reduction among power plants, the transportation sector or other industrial firms could have a damaging impact on the national and world economies.

"If the U.S. goes 'whole hog' in restricting carbon emissions, they could put a tax on power-generating companies to reduce their carbon emissions," Butt said. "This will, in turn, increase the cost of energy generation that will be passed on down to the consumer and industrial and manufacturing sectors. Agriculture may accomplish this objective at lower economy-wide impacts."

Internationally, emissions limits are beginning to be imposed. Canada, for example, is planning for implementation of greenhouse gas limits that would come with its ratification of the Kyoto Accord. As more and more countries around the world ratify the Protocol, the U.S. will under increasing pressure to cut its emissions.

So far, a few national farming organizations, including the American Farm Bureau, have shown interest in examining the potential of carbon reduction contracts.

"There are farmers who are willing to do it, but they are still wanting to learn more about the economic issues. Industry emitters are also knowledgeable about the prospect but need information on its potential and cost," Butt said.

The Consortium for Agricultur

Contact: Dr. Tanveer Butt
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications

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