Farmers, ag groups looking for answers about carbon sequestration

Elisa Sand
Aberdeen News
U.S. Sen. John Thune was in Aberdeen Thursday for a roundtable discussion with representatives from different agriculture organizations about the upcoming Farm Bill.

U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, met with a variety of people Thursday in a roundtable discussion about the upcoming Farm Bill, with several bringing up the topic of carbon sequestration.

This bill is negotiated and passed every five years with the current legislation expiring in September 2023. While the farm bill is divided into 12 sections, Thune's roundtable discussion on Thursday's at Agtegra focused on conservation programs, 

"The key every time we do this is to try and get the policy right and provide the right incentives," Thune said.

As those in attendance went around the table and shared their thoughts with Thune, several brought up the topic of carbon sequestration.

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Many asked how carbon will be measured or verified and what happens if carbon measurements in the ground change.

But at least one group is looking for answers.

Ryan Taylor, with Ducks Unlimited, said a research project is just getting started, looking into carbon sequestration on wetlands. Taylor said it's going to be a three- to five-year program, and will involve research institutions, but it will look at the soils and wetlands and the value they have for carbon sequestration.

Following the roundtable, Thune said he expects the next farm bill to include a marker about carbon sequestration, but it likely won't be a full-fledged program as there are still questions that need to be answered about how to measure and verify the carbon in the ground.

Thune said there are companies facing limits on emissions that are required to buy carbon credits and there's a belief that producers could benefit.

"There will be a market," he said. "It's how much the ag sector can contribute."

Thune said research, like what's just getting started through Ducks Unlimited, will help answer some of those questions, but right now the logistics of how a program is set up are yet to be determined.

As for other topics, more than one mentioned a need for flexibility when in comes to grazing on acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.

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Some of those streamlined emergency authorizations for grazing CRP were included in the 2018 Farm Bill. 

Matt Morlock, state coordinator for Pheasants Forever said having that flexibility is a positive shift, but he said it would be good to see incentives for marginal acres.

Still others talked about the need for more diversity in livestock processing; support of E-30 fuel, which has a 30% blend of ethanol, and the need to make crop insurance a priority.