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How to be paid for reducing nitrogen use

Nutrien Ag Solutions has a new way of thinking about carbon programs. Their 2022 Sustainable Nitrogen Outcomes program aims to pay farmer for reducing their nitrogen use.

“The program is designed to meet the Climate Action Reserve’s nitrogen management project protocol, which requires growers to apply at least 5% less total nitrogen compared to a three-year baseline,” says Sally Flis, Sr. Manager, North American sustainable ag, carbon for Nutrien Ag Solutions.

The program gathers a report of all field activities within the contract year to determine the total nitrogen applied. Then, an outside auditor verifies the data. “It’s a lower data ask than some of the soil carbon programs looking for eight to 10 years worth of data from a farmer,” Flis says. “It’s one year of intense data for the cropping season and the baseline data. It’s not a huge change for the grower and it’s not a huge data lift for our crop consultants.”

Data is kept anonymous throughout the auditing process and is owned and managed by the farmer.

“All the data goes into our Agrible platform,” Flis says. “The grower owns the data and owns the Agrible account. In their agreement with us, because they’re signed up to generate carbon credits, we can share that data with our verification body.”

Contracts within the program are good for one year. Since the nitrogen management program focuses on avoided emissions, there’s no need to worry about the permanence of carbon offsets.

“Even if a grower decides they don’t like the program, in 2023 they can go right back to what they were doing and not sign up for the program again,” Flis says. “There’s no loss to them and no change in what they got paid.”

For farmers who enjoy the program, its easy to extend participation.

“If a grower likes the way the program worked for them, the baseline they set in 2022 is good for up to 10 years,” Flis says. “They can continue with whatever nitrogen management practice change for up to 10 years and keep getting paid for those avoided emissions.”

Payments are made directly to farmers through their Nutrien Ag Solutions account. In the 2021 pilot program, carbon payments were not the only benefit farmers saw.

“In our 2021 pilot work, yields either stayed the same or improved with the practice changes, whether they went to a split application or used enhanced efficiency type products to achieve that rate reduction,” Flis said.

The 2022 program is open to corn, cotton, and wheat farmers in select counties. For more information, or to check eligibility, visit the Nutrien Ag Solutions website. The deadline to enroll is May 31, 2022.

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