In conjunction with Earth Day celebrations last week, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) and University of Iowa announced their first transaction of carbon credits to help reduce the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The University of Iowa is the first Iowa-based commercial entity to enter into an agreement with the Chicago Climate Exchange by purchasing 2,000 tons of carbon credits for its power plant operations from Iowa farmers through the IFBF program.
The University Power Plant is embarking on an innovative biomass project, burning oat hulls from Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids. The plant burned 27,000 tons of oat hulls last year. Each ton burned displaces more than a half ton of coal. Burning that amount of coal puts 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Carbon credit program pays farmers
In 2003, IFBF initiated a carbon credit sequestration program for farmers. Carbon sequestration involves capturing carbon dioxide and storing it in soil. To date, more than 83,000 acres of Iowa farmland have been enrolled in the four-year pilot program that recognizes that carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere when crop land is farmed with no-till practices or when grasslands are established.
Each acre of land that is not tilled pulls a half ton of carbon dioxide from the air per year. In the future, Iowa farmers could potentially remove several million tons of carbon dioxide from the air annually through increased use of conservation tillage practices.
"The carbon credit sequestration program provides financial incentives to farmers to encourage them to use conservation tillage practices," says Dave Miller, director of research and commodity services for IFBF and manager of the IFBF carbon program. "By participating in the program, farmers can achieve higher soil fertility, increased yields and other outcomes that aid local populations economically, environmentally and socially."
More carbon credit sales in future
"That's why Iowa Farm Bureau's carbon sale with the U of I is environmentally significant," adds Miller. "The sale of 2,000 carbon credits to the University of Iowa represents the carbon dioxide sequestration from 4,000 acres of Iowa farm land."
With entry into the Chicago Climate Exchange, the University of Iowa committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1% in 2003, 2% in 2004, 3% in 2005 and 4% in 2006, says Ferman Milster, associate director of utility and energy management for UI. "We have a biomass to energy project underway at UI using oat hulls and expect to generate our own credits in the future. But, to meet our commitments for 2003, we need to buy some credits to offset our emissions."
"We are pleased to be a part of this historic development of the carbon market," says Miller. "It is very encouraging that voluntary, market-based options are emerging to deal with environmental issues. Iowa's farmers are great stewards of the land and the benefits of this carbon credit exchange combined with no-till and soil erosion control plans will safeguard the land and air for generations to come."