Agricultural Carbon

The Agricultural Carbon program (“Ag Carbon”) seeks to reverse climate change by advancing the adoption of agricultural practices proven to sequester soil carbon and permanently remove atmospheric CO2 — offering the significant co-benefits of making ranches and farms more drought resilient, improving on-farm productivity and enhancing ecosystem functions. Strategic Ag Carbon partners are, Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs), CARCDFibershed and the Marin Carbon Project, supported by Ag Carbon through applied research, policy advocacy, and development of economic incentives for producers and land managers.

Program Impact

The Carbon Cycle Institute and its partners are working together to pave the way for broad adoption of carbon farming practices. We have been working with RCDs and landowners, completing the research necessary to show that carbon farming works and advocating for supportive policy with county, regional, state and federal agency partners. We have interest from a wide geographic area within CA as identified by more than 20 RCDs who have been active in developing and implementing carbon farming activities in their districts and establishing other regional partnerships for carbon farming.

In Marin County, the Marin RCD is the lead implementation organization for the Marin Carbon Project and has plans to complete and begin implementation of carbon farm plans for twenty (20) farms and ranches by 2017.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, a partnership of RCDs and local land trusts have launched a regional Carbon Farming Program, with the goal of completing and initiating implementation of carbon farm plans on at least sixty (60) farms, ranches, and dairies.  And, there are several others RCDs launching Carbon Farm Planning efforts across the state, including efforts in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo (Cachuma and Coast San Luis RCDs), San Diego (Greater San Diego RCD), Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Fresno (Sierra RCD), Tehama (RCD of Tehama County), Yolo (Yolo RCD), and Stanislaus counties (East Stanislaus RCD), Alameda and Contra Costa.  To support this growing statewide effort, the California Association of RCDs (CARCD), based in Sacramento, serves as a formal networking hub for carbon farming, providing technical training, securing federal, state and local resources, and serving as an administrative foundation across the RCDs. Member RCDs, the CARCD are the Carbon Cycle Institute’s lead partner for on-farm planning, implementation, and maintenance of carbon farming at the local (county) level.

Opportunities and Barriers

Carbon farming techniques must be rapidly and economically scaled to help reverse climate change. To be scalable, solutions require an enabling policy environment and appropriate economic incentives. CCI is working to pave the way for broad adoption through its policy advocacy work and collaboration with county, regional, state and federal agency partners.

In 2017, the Ag Carbon program will:

  • Identify and launch additional carbon farm plans and soil carbon demonstration projects in California, in addition to continuing support of the Marin Carbon Project;
  • Through additional demonstration projects, continue to connect compost/waste systems to support rangeland compost application and calibrate carbon sequestration models for monitoring and verification purposes;
  • Advance our understanding of the relationship between soil carbon, grazing practices and water holding capacity to clarify how our methodologies can increase agricultural resilience in the face of climate change, including drought and erratic, unseasonal and torrential rainfall;
  • Promote strategies for minimizing GHG emissions from the composting process;
  • Continue to engage county, regional, state and federal agencies and decision makers to secure policy supports and economic incentives for agricultural carbon projects—with particular focus on Marin and Sonoma County (Climate Action Plans), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the CA Air Pollution Control Officers Association, USEPA Region 9, NRCS and the USDA Farm Bill.

According to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (2014): “In agriculture, the most cost‐effective mitigation options are cropland management, grazing land management, and restoration of organic soils.”