Staff from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) from Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon visited California recently to meet with state officials and farmers and ranchers to discuss how farms and ranches can store carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and potentially benefit financially by providing greenhouse gas offsets under California’s cap-and-trade program.
Also along for the trip were researchers from Colorado State University, who partnered with NRCS to develop USDA’s greenhouse gas accounting tool called COMET-FARM. The tool enables producers and technical specialists to estimate the beneficial impacts of implementing conservation practices that store carbon or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The COMET-FARM tool was designed to work for a large portion of crops grown across the country but faces challenges in California, where more than 400 crops are grown. The groups first visited two ranches and a dairy farm associated with the Marin Carbon Project to explore how compost applications may accelerate the storage of carbon in rangeland soils.
They also visited vineyards, almond orchards, and rice and vegetable fields to meet with farmers and ranchers to better understand operations’ carbon and nitrous oxide inputs and outputs. Implementing conservation practices such as using cover crops, converting to no-till, and reducing energy use are examples of ways producers can increase carbon storage or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The group also met with a broad array of partners including the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Farm Bureau and Agricultural Air Quality Task Force to discuss potential collaborations on carbon quantification tools and carbon storage practices on farms and ranches.
“California is out in front of the rest of the country in providing opportunities for farmers and ranchers to benefit from carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” said Adam Chambers, an atmospheric resources specialist with NRCS. “At USDA, we are committed to developing the science and tools to help farmers and ranchers realize those benefits.”