A bottom-up approach to carbon markets

An environmental leader with Clean Fuels Alliance America says he’d like to see carbon markets shift from a top-down to bottom-up approach to ultimately benefit farmers.

Matt Herman is the director of environmental science for the organization.

“One of the things that I see in this market that I’m very conscious of is that it’s being driven from a top-down approach of we can reward a farmer for doing an x, y or z practice and we’ll share that value with the farmer,” he says. “If it’s the farmer doing this and managing this land year after year and working this rotation, shouldn’t they be the one that has the power who is generating the value and sharing it upstream rather than the value being shared downstream to them.”

He says farmers should do some research before signing a contract to sequester carbon. 

“They need to understand what’s being asked of them, is there a time commitment, and does this limit them from future opportunities. I tell my dad who’s a farmer to be careful signing up for something that’s worth maybe $5 or $10 an acre today when in four or five years you may be offered $30-50 an acre. You don’t want to limit yourself from that. At the same time, carbon reductions today are valuable (when it comes to meeting overall climate goals) so it’s a balancing act. At the end of the day we’re all going to have to come together through the agriculture community, work with the farmers, and really understand what we can do to support them and drive that value to them.”  

Brownfield interviewed Herman during the 2022 National Biodiesel Conference.

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