Jeanne Bernick, Top Producer Editor
Idaho farmer Dick Wittman spends a lot of time talking about the importance of understanding a farmer's carbon footprint. As a no-till wheat producer, he believes he's saving thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from escaping into the atmosphere by sequestering the carbon down deep in his soil.
In exchange, the carbon is feeding his fertile, loam soil, building up organic matter that has helped his farm team increase yields.
"Farmers need to start thinking like a carbon manager in addition to considering their vocation as a farmer, rancher or forester,” says Wittman, who is also a member of the Ag Carbon Market Working Group. "Most farmers are in the business of producing biomass. Biomass needs organic matter, and organic matter is carbon. If we want to improve our soils, the best thing we can do is sequester carbon.”
Science has proven that agricultural lands have great potential for sequestering carbon. Sequestration is a sink that offsets the impact of emissions. Analysis by the Pew Center for Global Climate Change and others indicates agriculture could provide up to 40% of the U.S. reductions needed to return 2010 greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels.
Ag stakeholders can play a critical role in providing carbon emission offsets. Offsets can originate in the form of methane capture, precision fertilizer application, as well as more commonly recognized practices such as carbon sequestration from no till farming.
"What we are not debating is whether global warming exists,” says Wittman. "At less than 2% of the population, it's counterproductive for farmers to argue if we are or are not experiencing global warming. What we should be debating is how farmers can capitalize on revenue generation opportunities and how we can protect the industry from adverse cost impacts.”