Carl Cervone

A 6-Step Primer For How Farmers Can Earn Carbon Credits

November 29, 2021

1. Land Demarcation

The farm owner (or project manager) creates a map of their land and tags the plots that are going to be included in the carbon sequestration program. This is typically the first step for farmers to enroll on any carbon platform.

2. Adoption of Farming Practices That Sequester Carbon

The farmer then commits to following a specific set of practices that are known to sequester carbon and are appropriate for their crop / land.

These practices may include: low-till or zero-till farming, planting cover crops or changing rotations instead of leaving fields fallow, applying compost or crop residues, and planting shade or agro-forestry trees within the plot.

3. Ongoing Data Collection

At least annually, the farmer or project manager provides data to the carbon platform to confirm that the recommended farming practices have been employed and to estimate the amount of carbon sequestered.

The carbon platform may collect its own data by taking on-site samples, auditing farming practices, or using satellite imagery.

4. Third Party Verification

The farmer or the carbon monitoring platform uses a third party to verify practices and/or conduct independent measurement of carbon capture.

Verification from an accredited third party is necessary to list the credits on major carbon markets.

5. Listing on Carbon Credit Markets

After verification, the farmer or project can sell their carbon credits on the carbon platform to any buyer that wants to offset its carbon emissions.

An increasing number of carbon platforms have marketplaces built into them. Some marketplaces take a share of sales; others charge users under a subscription model.

6. Prevention of Double Counting

In theory, a farmer or project could try to operate on two carbon platforms, and thereby earn two times the number of credits for the same amount of carbon removal. Carbon removal contracts prohibit this sort of “stacking,” but also rely on the honesty of the farmer and other actors to operate in good faith.

Unfortunately, there is no global registry for interoperable data standard to prevent stacking or other forms of double counting, so vigilance is still required.