GM paying carbon credits to farmers
WASHINGTON -- General Motors, maker of Chevrolet, will purchase carbon credits from landowners who have agreed to leave their land in agriculture permanently, meaning 11,000 acres of Prairie Pothole grasslands in western North Dakota will stay in...
WASHINGTON -- General Motors, maker of Chevrolet, will purchase carbon credits from landowners who have agreed to leave their land in agriculture permanently, meaning 11,000 acres of Prairie Pothole grasslands in western North Dakota will stay in agriculture.
Paul Schmidt, a Ducks Unlimited official, said the organization would not reveal the names of the landowners, but said the land is in the Missouri Coteau area of North Dakota in six counties: Emmons, McIntosh, McHenry, Sheridan, Burleigh and Kidder.
A GM official declined to say how much the North Dakota landowners would be paid for the carbon credits, but noted GM's total commitment to reducing carbon emissions is $40 million.
At the press conference, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the project represents the kind of "creativity" needed to keep land in agriculture and farmers turning carbon sequestration into a new cash product.
"This is a win for all of us," Stabenow said, referring to both agriculture and the auto industry that is so important in her home state.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was traveling and did not attend the event, but issued a news release.
"This announcement is the first of its kind," Vilsack said. "The amount of carbon dioxide removed from our atmosphere by Chevrolet's purchase of carbon credits equals the amount that would be reduced by taking more than 5,000 cars off the road. This public-private partnership demonstrates how much can be achieved with a modest federal investment and a strong commitment to cut carbon pollution."
U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie noted the project began with a $161,000 conservation innovation grant from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to Ducks Unlimited to develop methodology to quantify the carbon stored in the soil by avoiding grassland conversions, resulting in the generation of carbon credits.
According to a USDA news release, this is how the credit system works:
• Landowners voluntarily place lands under a perpetual easement but retain rights to work the land, such as raising livestock and growing hay.
• The carbon storage benefits of this avoided conversion of grasslands are quantified, verified and formally registered resulting in carbon credits.
• The carbon credits are made available to entities interested in purchasing carbon offsets.
• The landowners receive compensation for the carbon credits generated on their lands.
"Ranchers benefit from new revenue streams, while thriving grasslands provide nesting habitat for wildlife, are more resilient to extreme weather, and help mitigate the impact of climate change," Vilsack said.
Greg Martin, executive director for global public policy at GM, said the company has made a commitment to reduce 8 million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted. USDA said this is comparable to the annual carbon reduction benefit of a mature forest the size of Yellowstone National Park.
Ducks Unlimited, which is dedicated to preserving waterfowl habitat that is disappearing, developed the methodology, got it verified by the American Carbon Registry, convinced North Dakota farmers to grant perpetual easements that their land will stay in grass, and finalized the certification with the U.S. Fish & Wildife Service, a division of the Interior Department.
Sean Penrath of the Climate Trust, an Oregon group, said the development of the carbon credits market is particularly important for the Prairie Pothole region because it is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the country.
Schmidt, the Ducks Unlimited official, said the group is not engaged in any other carbon efforts, but that landowners can get more information from local Ducks Unlimited offices and from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.