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335871

Q&A: Heather Gieseke, vice president of carbon commercial for Indigo Ag

Indigo Ag executive works with farmers in carbon credit market.

As climate change garners increased attention, agriculture and agricultural practices have come to the forefront. 

One topic that’s at top of mind within the industry is carbon credits.

The idea is that farmers can implement farming practices that help sequester carbon in the soil and generate carbon credits. In turn, these carbon credits can be purchased by buyers in a voluntary market that’s estimated to be worth up to $50 billion by 2030.

In late June, Indigo Ag announced the first crop of these verified carbon credits generated at scale along with buyer commitments to purchase these credits.

It developed a process for verifying carbon credits generated on the farm and marketing these carbon credits to Indigo’s network of 17 buyers. To date, nearly 2,000 farmers have enrolled almost 5 million acres in the program. Indigo worked with the Climate Action Reserve, a nonprofit organization responsible for overseeing the process, to verify and issue credits.

Successful Farming magazine sat down with Heather Gieseke, vice president of carbon commercial for Indigo Ag, to find out more.

SF: Why is Indigo’s June announcement regarding its verifiable carbon credit program significant?

HG: We developed a way to measure high-quality carbon credits that are legitimate and verifiable. These credits can be purchased from our buying network. Many people assume this is a political play, and that the market will change depending on which political party is in office. The carbon credit mar- ket is voluntary. Companies are making the choice — anticipated to be 30% of Fortune 500 companies by 2030 — to make climate impact claims, such as being carbon neutral. They’re going to have to back it up. That’s going to require reducing the carbon in their supply chain and purchasing additional carbon credits that they can use to offset.

SF: How does Indigo work with farmers regarding carbon credit opportunities?

HG: Our measurements are based on an academic model that’s fed by a significant amount of peer- reviewed research. We work with farmers to find ways for them to qualify appropriately. Many farmers feel that they may not qualify because they aren’t big enough or use cover crops. That’s not true. It could be adapting reduced tillage methods, such as moving from chisel plowing to vertical till. It could be moving nitrogen application closer to planting date, or changing crop rotation. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. We do not tell farmers how to farm, nor do we want farmers to implement a practice that might not work for their farm just because there’s a carbon payment attached to it.

SF: How are producers paid in Indigo’s program?


HG: Our program is outcome-based, meaning the farmer gets paid for the number of credits that they generate on their farm. That amount is determined by the current carbon market. So they will get paid more if the market rises.

Program flexibility is another question we get. For instance, if wet weather requires some spring tillage when you are enrolled in the program, you are not kicked out of the program or penalized. Our program is designed to be flexible from one year to the next. It may impact how much carbon is sequestered and the amount of carbon credits you receive that year. Farmers get paid for the carbon they actually sequester, but they still have the flexibility to do what economically makes sense for them and make changes for one year.

SF: How much are the payments, and when are they received?

HG: Payments for a particular crop are vested over five years (50%, 20%, 10%, 10%, and 10%) and payments stack over time. Indigo farmers receive, at minimum, 75% of each $40 credit through the Carbon by Indigo program.

SF Bio


Name: Heather Gieseke

Title: Vice President, Indigo Ag

Background: While Gieseke did not grow up on a farm, she became interested in agriculture while serving as the Macon County (Illinois) fair queen. She switched majors from education to agricultural business at Illinois State University. Her work in commodity trading and risk management throughout her career has fueled her desire to bring new market opportunities to producers, she says.

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