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How Will a Carbon Market Impact Agriculture?

Carbon Market

Grand Farm hosted a two hour virtual event on May 14th, 2021 exploring the impact of carbon on agriculture. The virtual event was structured around panel discussions about the state of the carbon market in agriculture and how will the carbon market impact growers. The two-hour, virtual event included pitches, informative speakers and investor reverse pitches. Andrew Jason with the Grand Farm team hosted more than 450 people from around the globe who gathered to hear the opinions of the agriculture experts representing different perspectives from industry, start-ups, higher education, and government..

This event highlighted work from around the world detailing the impacts a robust carbon market will have on agriculture. Grand Farm’s mission is to engage organizations from around the world to develop solutions for some of the largest problems in agriculture with innovation through collaboration.

Carbon sequestration has risen to one of the most talked-about topics in agriculture. Carbon sequestration is the removal of carbon from the atmosphere, and some farming practices are thought to assist with this function.

The panel discussion about ‘the state of the carbon market in agriculture’ was moderated by Connie Bowen, Director of Innovation, with AgLaunch. Dr. Bill Wilson, University Distinguished Professor at North Dakota State University, highlighted that the current carbon market demands official standards because both companies and countries compete on standards to allow more efficient trading mechanisms.

Allison Nepveux, Director of Sustainability at Bushel, suggested that carbon market standardization will also help farmers earn credibility when trading crops. Dr. Wilson talked about distinguishing between carbon trading versus carbon contracting considering the complexities involved in carbon contracting such as mechanisms for verification and certification, transferability, ways to fight contract disputes, merchantability, etc.

Considering the ambiguity around the carbon market from both buyers’ and producers’ perspectives, Allison stated that there are a lot of questions that need to be answered around the practicality of a robust carbon market.

Some of the questions shared by Allison included:

  1. How to create a baseline (onboarding, data collection e.g. for how long the grain can be stored underground) for farmers to adopt better practices and in return get rewarded on the other end?
  1. What are the limitations of focusing exclusively on carbon emissions?
  1. How do the policy incentives differ between European and US markets?

Dr. Wilson concluded the discussion by stating that carbon testing technology needs to be extremely low cost, credible and efficient.

The panel discussion about ‘how will the carbon market impact growers’ was moderated by Mark Watne, President of ND Farmers Union. Mark shared that farmers are interested in contributing and being able to make a difference.

There is a need to identify protocols that enable farmers in understanding how they qualify if they store carbon (or nitrous oxide), and how it translates into the market where they can get paid. Farmers want to add value but they struggle in navigating the pathway in the field of the carbon market in its current state. The panel discussion focused primarily on three questions.

  1. Carbon markets for farmers: are they worth the hype?
  1. What needs to be done for the farmers to get into the Carbon market?
  1. What the panelist’s organizations are doing?

The panelists included Terri Herzig from CHS, Brandon Hunnicutt, Farmer from Nebraska, and Chris Harbor from Indigo Ag. Mark wrapped up the panel discussion with the following two questions:

  1. What is the biggest barrier for the carbon market to be fully adopted or established?

Barriers pointed out by the panelists included:

  • Adding additional agricultural practices (e.g., long-term no-tillagetogether with cover crops)
  • Expecting farmers to pay a cost for participating in the carbon market
  • Data issues: not clear about how to lock it down?
  • Ambiguity related to carbon market pricing with different types of crops
  • An ambiguity of farmers on how to get involved/participate in the carbon credit programs
  • Openness to change for different agricultural practices
  1. Who is best to lead the carbon market initiative: government, current industry, or higher education program?

The panelists unanimously agreed that all three entities must be involved in establishing a successful carbon marketplace for both domestic and international trading in agriculture.


Mark Watne

Mark Watne was elected president of North Dakota Farmers Union in November 2013. In his capacity, he serves as president of Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Company and Farmers Union Service Association, all headquartered in Jamestown.

Bill Wilson

Dr. William W. Wilson received his PhD in Agricultural Economics from the University of Manitoba in 1980. Since then he has been a Professor at North Dakota State University in Agribusiness and Applied Economics with periodic sabbaticals at Stanford University. Recently, he was named as a University Distinguished Professor at NDSU which an honorary position is, and a great achievement.

Terry Herzig

Terry Herzig is director of retail agronomy for CHS Country Operations, a division of CHS, the nation’s leading farmerowned cooperative and a global energy, agronomy, grains and foods company.

Allison Nepveux

Allison Nepveux is the Director of Sustainability at Bushel, an independently owned and operated software company headquartered in Fargo, N.D. Allison is leading Bushel’s strategy around how to enable sustainability and traceability using Bushel’s innovative software products and solutions.

Chris Harbourt

Leveraging over 25 years of experience in leadership positions at the intersection of science, agriculture, engineering, and business, Chris leads Indigo’s efforts to develop a trusted and scientifically rigorous carbon credit program for farmers as Global Head of Carbon.

Brandon Hunnicutt

Brandon is a fifth generation farmer, who currently farms with his semi-retired dad (Daryl) and brother (Zach). They raise corn, soybeans, popcorn, seed corn and have some organic production and he graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in Ag Business.

Connie Bowen

Connie Bowen is the Director of Innovation and Investment for AgLaunch, a farmer network based in Memphis, TN. In this role, she is responsible for driving organization growth opportunities, building and growing innovation capabilities, and championing innovation to build a transformed regional food and agricultural economy.

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