Bill Would Provide Incentive For Landowners, Farmers To Do Climate-Friendly Practices

Feb 2, 2021

Soybean plants on a field with no-till agriculture. No-till farming can help sequester carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.
Credit (Tim McCabe/USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service)

It could get easier for landowners who do climate-friendly practices to get some extra cash under a new state Senate bill. The bill would create a state program to help landowners sell carbon credits to businesses like Microsoft and Amazon that want to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

When a landowner plants a stand of trees or puts cover crops on farmland, it can trap the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Sustainable agricultural practices can also reduce erosion, which improves the water quality in nearby streams and lakes.

Sean Mobley is with the Nature Conservancy in Indiana. He said the state has been a leader in sustainable agriculture, but this bill will help more large farms to get on board.

“Technical assistance and direct financial support that reduce the burden of transitioning large operations to regenerative agriculture have always been barriers to wide scale adoption," Mobley said.

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State Sen. Sue Glick (R-LaGrange) co-authored the bill based largely on a proposal by former State Sen. Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) last year. She said the state would act as a kind of clearinghouse for landowners — helping distribute funding and finding reputable people for landowners to do business with so that they get a fair deal.

“It's basically an opportunity for the state to get it started, get it organized and let the markets dictate," Glick said.

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Because the state would only be a conduit between landowners and the carbon credit market, it’s not clear how the program would play out in Indiana. It’s also uncertain if companies that manufacture wood products like hardwood furniture would also be able to sell carbon credits.

Even after a tree is cut down, wood can lock away some amount of carbon. But how much is difficult to say, and those numbers don't always account for the emissions it takes to manufacture that product. One study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison estimated all of the world's wood products only mitigate one percent of global carbon emissions.  

The bill passed out of committee and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.