Soil is one of the most prolific carbon sinks. In the top 30 inches of soil, there is more than three times as much carbon as there is in the atmosphere.
But there used to be more than that. About 30% of the carbon in the atmosphere today got there because the soil was disrupted by industrial farming, tillage, and land conversion.
The good news is much of that carbon can be drawn back into the land without compromising food production, and in fact strengthening our food system! Regenerative practices like cover cropping, dense crop rotations, planting perennials, eliminating chemical fertilizers, and minimizing tillage help restore carbon to the soil. These practices go above and beyond the standard farming practices, and can earn carbon credits for positive climate contributions.
We provide detailed farm records, weather data, and documents demonstrating our perpetual commitment to conservation. The Hudson Carbon Exchange goes further and provides farm-wide soil samples that measure the increase in carbon down to a meter in our farmland. We then compare our data against nearby conventional farms in similar crops and soil types. The difference in our performance represents our claim to carbon removal. All of this data is independently vetted by the Hudson Carbon scientific panel.
We believe that carbon is systematically underpriced, which means that there are insufficient consequences for emitting and limited incentives to embrace carbon removal. The social cost of carbon is a challenging concept, how does one put a price on lives lost and people displaced from dirty air, coastal erosion, water disruption, and extreme heat? Scholars have tried to come up with answers, which have ranged from $30 to $400 per ton of carbon. Rather than placing a price on people’s lives and our public goods, we have taken a different approach. We have set out to determine the price that will make it possible for farmers to align their operations to maximize carbon capture. Committing to regenerative practices means upfront costs including new equipment, temporary yield declines, new seeds, more labor, and innovative pest management. We have worked with our agricultural partners to price out those needs and come up with a carbon price that adequately overcomes those barriers and allows farmers to sustain those practices. We think this will send better signals in all carbon markets and compensate at levels that will actually create change. Regenerative practices can draw down up to a half of global emissions, while making food healthier, land more fertile, and rural communities more prosperous. We feel this should be our most prioritized climate solution and believe it deserves a premium price.
Farmers receive 80% of the carbon revenue from our marketplace. The remaining costs support the registration and verification process, and the soil carbon research we lead to continue to advance agricultural carbon initiatives. As a non-profit, all revenue earned above our costs gets funneled back into our mission of accelerating adoption to regenerative agriculture.
One offset represents one ton of carbon removed from the atmosphere and stored in the ground in a particular year. Our marketplace retires credits on behalf of customers and logs transactions on Nori’s public ledger. Carbon cannot be resold after being purchased on our platform. Nori requires that each credited ton of carbon remains stored for at least 10 years, but we anticipate stewardship on our farm for much longer. Nori also protects buyers and sellers of credits from unintentional carbon releases, in the case of a wildfire for example, by retiring a pool of credits to cover these events or any potential inaccuracies discovered after a credit has been issued. Natural systems are imperfect, but we are careful to be conservative to avoid overstating the benefits of a project.
There is a big difference between carbon removal and avoided emissions. While it is important to decarbonize our smokestacks and tailpipes, we cannot reach our climate goals by simply polluting less. We also need to draw down carbon from the atmosphere. Nori, our carbon registry, only compensates those that actually draw down carbon. They use detailed climate models that not only evaluate the level of carbon stored in soil, but the changes relative to a baseline of standard practices. For example, there may be years, because of precipitation and temperature patterns, where most farms would sequester some carbon. Nori only provides credits to farms that beat that standard and go above and beyond. We believe credits under this standard have the highest integrity for demonstrating true climate benefits. We also appreciate that they are open to incorporating precise measurements of climate impact, like the soil cores we take on partner farms, to continue to advance soil carbon science and reliably credit exceptional climate action. As a research institution, we seek to partner with eminent scientific organizations to accurately quantify sources of greenhouse gas emissions and utilize state of the art research to advance ecosystem service markets.