Ag Producers Can Be Paid for the Carbon in their Soil, says Jerry Stephens of Agoro Carbon Alliance

Listen to KC Sheperd talk with Jerry Stephens about climate-smart ag.

At the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Conference in Kansas City, Farm Director, KC Sheperd talked regional sales manager for Agoro Carbon Alliance out of South Dakota, Jerry Stephens. Sheperd and Stephens talk about encouraging producers to partake in climate-smart agriculture.

“I work with producers every day in these carbon markets, developing carbon credits,” Stephens said.

Stephens helps producers implement new environmentally friendly practices on their farms or ranches.

On a farm, Stephens said this could mean less tillage or implanting a cover crop. On a ranch, he added, this could mean improving grazing by adding more species.

“Really, the bottom line for carbon is really simple,” Stephens said. “We all know what organic matter is. We know what it looks like and what it smells like when you till the soil. If you can increase the organic matter of your soil, you are increasing carbon.”

Farmers who have added or captured additional carbon in their soil, Stephens said, can be paid for that.

“The money that is involved in the carbon markets is great because it will help implement these practices,” Stephens said. “For example, I was in western South Dakota, and they were talking about how one percent of change in organic matter will hold another inch of water. Well, last three years, we have been in a drought- can you imagine what one more inch of water-holding capacity would mean to a rancher in any of these arid states we live in?”

To learn more about how carbon credits work, Stephens said producers can visit and an agronomist can come and visit with them about their operation.

Stephens said many producers automatically assume they will not qualify for enrollment. While not all of a producer’s ground may be eligible, Stephens said they might be surprised by what would qualify.

“We actually pay people for tons of carbon we find in the soil,” Stephens said. “So, we take a baseline sample in year zero, and come back in year five and in year ten, and we can measure how much new carbon is out there.”

It is not about the activity, Stephens said, it is about proving that it is a “pay for performance” type program.

“If you are good about the way you conserve your land and the way you farm or operate your ranch and you are increasing your soil health- your forage base, you are sequestering carbon,” Stephens said. “We can measure that with a soil test.”

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