In an interview with Successful Farming, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack covered carbon markets, nutrition and rectifying past discrimination against black farmers.
Vilsack says the current carbon market structure and system doesn’t necessarily speak directly to US farmers and ranchers.
“I think they were set up and established for a variety of other interests,” he says. “There are significant certification and documentation requirements associated with those markets. The price of the carbon credit is not significant enough to get the attention of farmers.”
That’s why so far, participation and interest among farmers is low, he says. He sees USDA’s role as reaching out to farmers and ranchers to garner their input on what will work and what won’t. This feedback will then be used by USDA to help design effective plans that boost participation by farmers and ranchers, he adds.
USDA’s goal is to develop processes in which farmers are compensated financially for practices that effectively sequester and store carbon.
“How it’s structured is yet to be determined,” he says. “Is it a guaranteed price for a credit? Is it a reverse auction situation that establishes the value? Is it something different than where the (U.S.) Department of Agriculture finances the investments necessary to sequester the carbon, in a way that farmers financially benefit? We don’t know yet.”