On the heels of new federal climate and agriculture policies geared toward supporting agricultural carbon markets, a report from Friends of the Earth and Open Markets Institute reveals how this approach will fail to address the climate crisis while enabling the largest agribusiness corporations to entrench their market power and greenwash their operations.
The report breaks down the pitfalls of private programs that pay farmers to generate carbon offsets for corporate buyers. Polluters can buy credits from projects that overestimate their carbon sequestration or fail to store carbon long-term, running the risk of increasing emissions while worsening pollution hot-spots in low-wealth and Black and Brown communities.
There is no scientific consensus on how long carbon remains in the soil. It can be released by changing land management practices or severe weather events. Selling and buying soil-based offsets is little more than speculation.
Current sequestration verification programs allow major corporations like Bayer and Corteva to collect and monetize farm data by driving farmers to their digital platforms. These platforms further incentivize and promote their seed and pesticide products like RoundUp, entrenching corporate power and chemical-intensive monocultures.
These programs are often not designed for smaller and ecologically regenerative farms. Generally, the largest farms have the most to gain from carbon payments, threatening to further consolidation in farm land. In order to participate, farmers must contractually commit to years or even decades of more expensive practices to produce credits for Big Ag with minimal guarantees of return on investment.
Congress and USDA should invest in real solutions by increasing funding and improving existing conservation programs rather than relying on harmful offset schemes.