Land O’Lakes Inc., one of the biggest U.S. farm cooperatives, has found a way for its farmers to cash in on carbon dioxide trapped in soil.
Its subsidiary Truterra LLC agreed to sell as much as 100,000 metric tons worth of carbon credits to Microsoft Corp., allowing corn, soybean, wheat and cotton farmers to fetch $20 a ton this summer. The Arden Hills, Minnesota-based company says its the first farmer-owned program of its kind.
Growers will use so-called precision farming data to help track how much carbon their soils absorb. Data on everything from soil nutrients to weather will help farmers manage issues like fertilizer, tilling soil and planting cover crops to maximize carbon capture.
“Farmers are smart about investing where they know they can invest,” Beth Ford, the company’s chief executive officer, said in an interview. “They are always investing in their land, and this is a new revenue source that also fits in solving other problems in the world, in this instance climate change.”
Carbon capture projects have been eyed as a method for tracking and rewarding good land stewardship. The market is not regulated on a national level, however, which has raised some concerns about corporations declaring improved environmental performance while falling short.
Land O’Lakes, which has members that operate dairies and field crops alike, said its focus is on empowering rural communities and family farms.