"It's not a new idea," Nelson said. "We've had set-aside for water quality and biodiversity for years, and people have known about sequestering carbon for a long time, but they usually think about planting trees."
He said markets in Europe now pay for practices that capture carbon in the soil – and those markets are likely to grow. They operate as the Bali proposal to pay countries not to cut trees would operate: Those who reduce pollution get credits they can sell on a carbon credit market to industries that can't reduce emissions enough to comply with requirements.
Nelson said farmers can take three different actions to increase their environmental contributions – change production practices, change land use or crops to provide more environmental services like carbon sequestration, or choose not to do something that would have negative impacts like converting land to annual row crop production.
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3 years ago