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CarbonNOW program pays $1.2 million to carbon farmers

The CarbonNOW program from Locus AG has distributed over $1.2 million in carbon payments to farmers enrolled within the last eight months. The program lifts some financial burden from the farmer by paying 75% of the annual cash payment up front and the remaining 25% at the end of the year.

While the carbon market space has a medley of options for farmers, CarbonNOW stands out with the upfront payment. It also specifically focuses on fertility and carbon and is suited to farmers who may not fit the requirements of others. That includes farmers who have already strategically implemented tillage, cover crops, nitrogen management, etc. and have maintained those practices for years.

travis kraft

Travis Kraft, director of US Row Crops, recognizes those regenerative ag practices will have taken major investments in money and time. The farmers who pioneered with them are capitalizing on the benefits in the soil now, he says.

Those farmers and others can qualify for CarbonNOW, since using the Locus AG soil probiotics qualifies as a practice change in the program.

“Farmers can get tangible dollars and cents by using something that's also going to allow their soil to be more active through our technology," Kraft says.

The soil amendments from Locus AG aim to extend the process of photosynthesis and nutrient cycling.

“The more photosynthesis occurs, the more carbon or root exudates are kicked into the soil, the more that interchange happens,” Kraft explains.

Carbon returned to the soil allows the biology to stay active longer throughout the day and across the season, leading to potential yield increase as well.

The Farmer Perspective

Mark Boston is a farmer near Greenfield, Illinois, who enrolled in the CarbonNOW program this year.

He and his wife farm corn and soybeans, 300 acres of alfalfa, and have a cattle operation. Boston kept an eye on carbon market programs over the last three to four years and paid close attention to various programs’ requirements, such as timing and percentage of payment and farming practice changes.

“The main appeal of the CarbonNOW program with Locus AG was that I didn’t have to change the way I was farming,” Boston says. “I didn't have to buy different equipment, just add products to our program, which was a minimal investment and minimal change.”

The upfront payments enable Boston to invest back in the farm and more quickly reach his goals.

Boston recommends reading the literature and doing your homework when it comes to evaluating programs.

“A lot of companies require massive investments in equipment or cover crops or implementing other practices. There is a lot of difference between them,” he says. “Look at the differences and see what fits your farm the best so you can get the highest payout possible.”

The Differentiators

“CarbonNOW is unique because this tool, this line of soil probiotics, allows for additional yield and additional carbon sequestration,” Kraft says. “We can push that envelope and get farmers paid more and earlier, with a quicker practice change and added co-benefits.”

“We have recently seen a proliferation of ag carbon programs due to the continued interest from corporations in nature-based solutions to climate change and meeting their GHG emission reduction goals," Garth Boyd, Ph. D., Partner at The Context Network. "In addition to the continued interest in the generation of offsets from the implementation of new practices or technologies on the farm, we are seeing significantly more interest in demand for insets from within downstream customers supply chains.”

“Each carbon program has taken a somewhat different approach, providing an opportunity for farmers to evaluate the programs and decide which program will work best for their operations," he says.

The CarbonNOW program differentiators include:

  • 75% upfront annual cash payments (remaining 25% paid at the end of the year)
  • Guaranteed annual minimum payments, with accruing performance bonuses
  • No program fees with soil testing done each year free of charge
  • Recently expanded to 1.32 million acres
  • Continuous active enrollment
    • Use of Locus AG soil probiotics is an approved practice change and allows farmers who have been using regenerative ag practices for years to enroll
  • Soil probiotics can also increase the amount of carbon sequestered per acre by 2-3 times the norm

Context Network

This article is part of the SF Carbon Connection, a joint carbon market project between Successful Farming magazine and The Context Network, West Des Moines, Iowa. We are developing editorial content regarding existing carbon markets and carbon programs available to farmers. Each month, Successful Farming magazine and Agriculture.com will contain stories that enable farmers to dig deeper into carbon markets. The mid-November issue of Successful Farming magazine will also feature carbon market stories. Future carbon market coverage may also convey information through other media platforms.

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