Carbon Market Guide Helps Farmers Navigate Carbon Contracts

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ST. PAUL – Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU), in partnership with Farmers Legal Action Group (FLAG) and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), released a Farmers’ Guide to Carbon Markets in Minnesota.

The Farmers’ Guide to Carbon Markets was developed in response to the questions and concerns raised by MFU members. With one fifth of the world’s largest companies setting net-zero emissions targets, farmers are being asked to make changes to their operations that sequester carbon and sell companies credit for that sequestered carbon. These relations between farmers, large companies and often third-party vendors are defined by contracts.

The 32-page guide written by attorneys Stephen Carpenter and Lindsay Kuehn is filled with information to help farmers navigate carbon contracts. There’s a handy question-and-answer section that draws on text taken from actual contracts and information to generate discussion with the representative offering the contract.

“Minnesota farmers now have greater opportunities to combat climate change by tapping into this new and evolving carbon marketplace; however, we must recognize the concerns farmers may have,” said MDA Commissioner Thom Petersen. “We’re pleased to partner with Minnesota Farmers Union and Farmers Legal Action Group to develop this guide that will ensure farmers have access to the information they need to succeed in this evolving carbon contract arena.”

“The carbon markets are really in their infancy, without a lot of regulation and common structure,” said MFU member Pat Lunemann. “Carbon markets are like the ‘Wild, Wild West’ where everyone is shooting from the hip. No entity is there to assure that contracts are fair to both parties involved. Going forward, there is much potential for farmers to capture rewards for innovative practices on their farms and the guide describes the opportunities and the obstacles that may be in front of us.”

Lunemann, of Twin Eagle Dairy in Clarissa, is one of 10 farmers who served as advisors to the guide’s authors. The farmers shared their concerns and sought answers to the many questions surrounding the carbon marketplace.

“Before authoring this guide, FLAG was receiving frequent questions from many family farmers and ranchers about the legal aspects of carbon sequestration contracts, said Scott Carlson, FLAG’s Executive Director. “After looking into some of the contracts offered by various companies, it was clear that farmers and ranchers would benefit from guidance on many of the legal issues, questions, and potential risks posed by committing to carbon sequestration contracts. We knew there was a need for a Farmers’ Guide to Carbon Markets in Minnesota, and the public’s interest has been high.”

The guide is available at no cost, thanks to a grant from the McKnight Foundation. It can be picked up at any trade show where MFU or MDA are exhibiting.

The guide is also available online at http://www.flaginc.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Farmers-Guide-Carbon-Market-Contracts-in-Minnesota-First-Edition-January-2023.pdf.

About Farmers Legal Action Group

FLAG is a national nonprofit law center headquartered in St. Paul, MN. FLAG’s mission is to provide legal services and support to family farmers and their communities to help keep family farmers on the land.

About Minnesota Department of Agriculture

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s mission is to enhance all Minnesotans’ quality of life by equitably ensuring the integrity of our food supply, the health of our environment, and the strength and resilience of our agricultural economy. The MDA has served our state for more than 125 years and the work of the department touches every Minnesota citizen every day. Learn more at www.mda.state.mn.us.

About Minnesota Farmers Union

Minnesota Farmers Union works to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. MFU is a nonprofit membership-based organization. Membership is open to everyone. Learn more and join at www.mfu.org and follow MFU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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