Climate change was on Jeff Enger’s mind when I caught up with him in the field recently.
He was super coultering around potholes in a corn field, trying to stay ahead his brother and nephew who were planting soybeans at a feverish pace. The calendar said June and some of fields around Marion were just getting dry enough to plant.
Enger represents North Dakota corn growers on a national cap and trade committee.
Cap and trade is a government idea that would limit carbon emissions from factories, power plants and nearly all industries but allow companies to pay somebody else to capture and store carbon. The “somebody” may be farmers.
But Enger isn’t so sure that it is going to be a good deal.
Paying producers to store carbon might work fine for farmers and ranchers who have pastures and native ranchland that they never plan to break up.
Farmers in more dry parts of the Dakotas who always no-till might be able to make cap and trade work in their operations, too.
But Enger thinks that from the the Missouri River east, farmers need more flexibility.
The Engers usually no-till, but they work some of their fields when it’s wet and cool.
If they sign up to store carbon, will they not be able to plant corn some years?
Enger says that farmers may never be paid enough to store carbon to make it worthwhile.
If cap and trade becomes the law of the land, the price of everything farmers buy -- fuel, fertilizer, machinery, chemicals -- will rise, he says.
Farmers will need more than the few dollars per acre they are currently paid to store carbon, he says.