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Reap benefits of environmentally friendly farming now

Tom J. Bechman Tractor at work in field
BENEFIT NOW: Industry observers believe it makes sense to adopt environmentally friendly practices and build soil health now, whether you’re ready to sign a carbon credits contract or not.
Practices that may earn money through carbon credits are helpful in other ways.

For Howard Halderman, president of Halderman Real Estate and Farm Management Services, Wabash, Ind., keeping tabs on future trends in agriculture is key to the success of his business.

He is watching discussion about “sustainability” carefully. He wants to learn what it means for Hoosier farms in the future. Here are four observations he has made:

Howard HaldermanSustainability is not just about carbon credits. “I would agree with Betsy Bower of Ceres Solutions that there are more important reasons than just selling carbon credits to seriously consider switching to more environmentally friendly farming practices — namely the long-term health and profitability of your farm,” says Halderman (pictured). “However, it’s a real gap in my mind that longtime sustainable producers don’t qualify for being able to sell carbon credits.

“I sure wouldn’t encourage anyone who’s been doing no-till and cover crops to tear up what they’ve built up, just to start over and be eligible to sell carbon credits. Hopefully, some companies will come out with a program that recognizes that the long-term, limited-till and cover crop producer is still sequestering carbon annually.”

Related: Carbon markets in ‘Wild West’ phase

Check out your options. “It pays to find the right program that fits your farm and goals,” Halderman says. “At this point, I’d try to find one that allows you to maintain as much flexibility as possible as this new market develops. This may mean looking for a short-term contract.”

Be proactive. “Regulatory demands for sustainable practices will continue to increase, and farmers are better off being proactive than reactive,” Halderman says. “Starting the journey now allows you to learn, capture some income for doing so, and enhances the value of your farm long term.

“Then if the carbon program income increases, you can expand what you do, based on your own experience, and probably have a better transition.”

It’s a win-win opportunity. “This market is so new that it’s really hard to predict what will happen 10 years from now,” Halderman says. “But let’s just imagine that in 10 years, markets are demanding more sustainably produced commodities and will pay for them, carbon credits are selling for $50 per acre, and/or there are government regulations requiring more sustainable production practices.

“In any of those cases, farms that have made the transition are going to be in a better position for future opportunities, be more profitable, be healthier and more valuable — whatever your goals for your farm. It is truly a win-win opportunity to investigate.”

Boone writes from Wabash, Ind.

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