Over the next decade, the current agricultural system will need to fundamentally transform in order to produce enough food for 9.8 billion people, mitigate and adapt to climate change, protect water resources, and support farmers. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture is the fifth largest source of GHG emissions in the nation accounting for 9.4% of the nation’s emissions. According to World Resources Institute, GHG emissions from agriculture must be reduced by more than 75% compared to projected 2050 levels to prevent global emissions from increasing by more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. Leading scientists have determined that improved cropland and grassland management practices have the potential to store more than 250 MtCO2e annually in the U.S. alone; equal to about 4% of total annual U.S. GHG emissions.
In this white paper, American Farmland Trust (AFT) and Sierra View Solutions (SVS) analyze the current state of agricultural carbon programs, explore four main reasons why farmer participation may be low, and recommend 12 strategic changes that would help these programs, which are mainly focused on cropland, to succeed. The most critical barriers AFT and SVS identify are the economics of the programs, concerns about additionality, requirements for permanence, and data and technology barriers for agriculture.