Carbon Trading Provides New Market Opportunities for Agriculture

Final Report for ENE07-103

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2007: $112,927.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Robert Aman
Central New Your Resource Conservation and Development Project, Inc. (CNY RC&D)
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Project Information

Summary:

One hundred twenty (120) educators from across the Northeast SARE Region gained knowledge and skills through a regional Carbon Trading: Market Opportunities for Agriculture informational workshop held May 20, 2008 in Voorheesville, NY with satellite links to sites in DE, NH and PA. This project allowed educators to help colleagues and farmers/landowners to better understand how carbon credits are marketed.

The workshop and materials developed, which included a robust resource manual, provided educators with information and educational tools for explaining the marketing options of different agricultural practices and compliance requirements as they relate to carbon trading. The educational modules covered: 1) Basic Cap-and-Trade and Market Opportunities, 2) Northeast Policy Perspectives and Federal 1605(b) Voluntary Reporting, 3) Qualifying Agricultural Practices, 4) Contracts, 5) Whole Farm Planning Considerations, and 6) Farms with Experience.

The Final Evaluation Report showed that this program was very well received by the majority of participants. The participants clearly increased their knowledge and many used this knowledge, or their increased awareness of resources, to assist others on carbon trading related issues. The number of outreach activities well exceeded the project’s intended goal. The majority of participants desired additional educational programs on carbon-trading related subjects, as well as refresher workshops on the topics presented in this project.

Performance Target:

Performance Target: 100 educators from across the Northeast SARE Region will use the knowledge and skills they gained at the Carbon Trading: Market Opportunities for Agriculture Workshop to initiate outreach by one or more of the following: organizing local education sessions, giving presentations, working with individual farmers, answering questions, referring colleagues/farmers/landowners to educational resources.

To assess whether this Performance Target was achieved, a web-based survey was sent electronically a year after the conclusion of the final workshop. Fifty-two (52) people completed this survey, while another 12 emailed and said they could not complete the survey. Of the 52 participating respondents, 100% had completed at least one outreach activity, with most having completed numerous activities with numerous parties. A total of 1,342 activities were reported completed by participants, well exceeding what the project intended.

As not everyone completed the survey, it was not possible to discern exactly how many people completed outreach, and thus whether the 100 educator threshold was realized. Yet the numbers of outreach activities well exceed the threshold level.

Introduction:

A review of the literature showed that while there is ample information available on many of the scientific aspects of carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and some information about policy issues, there is very little extension educator material available about how to market carbon credits from the landowner/farmer perspective. Of particular relevance, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the first carbon regulations in the United States, which includes 10 Northeast states, issued its rules for agricultural offsets during this PDP grant period. This makes trading a regulated market in the Northeast region thus concretizing the relevance to farmers in the NESARE region. This project allowed 120 educators from across the Northeast SARE Region to use the knowledge and skills they gained at the Carbon Trading: Market Opportunities for Agriculture Workshop to help colleagues and farmers/landowners understand how to market carbon credits.

Specifically, Northeast farms are being approached by private companies to sell carbon credits generated by practices such as No-Till and anaerobic digesters. While mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is currently voluntary in the United States, carbon-credits are actively being traded on markets offered by Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), Environmental Defense (ED), RGGI and others. Currently most farmers/landowners do not understand the complexity of this new, developing market and most educators are not yet prepared to advise them. This training provided educators with valuable information and educational tools for explaining marketing options and compliance requirements as they relate to carbon trading. The educational modules included: 1) Basic Cap-and-Trade and Market Opportunities, 2) Northeast Policy Perspectives and Federal 1605(b) Voluntary Reporting, 3) Qualifying Agricultural Practices, 4) Contracts, 5) Whole Farm Planning Considerations, and 6) Farms with Experience.

The Workshop program and resource manual content were evaluated by a focus group of experts prior to the May 20, 2008 workshop and afterwards an evaluator was hired to verify transfer and application of gained knowledge.

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

The Carbon Trading: Market Opportunities for Agriculture Workshop was held May 20, 2008 in Voorheesville, NY. Video link sites were arranged for: Greensburg, PA; Georgetown, DE; and Boscawen, NH. Eight (8) PowerPoint presentations were conducted along with providing 38 fact sheets, which were included in the Carbon Trading: Market Opportunities for Agriculture Resource Manual, and distributed at the 4 sites. Eleven (11) subject experts were hired to make the PowerPoint presentations and author the fact sheets covering the topics of: 1) Basic Cap-and-Trade and Market Opportunities; 2) Northeast Policy Perspectives; 3) Qualifying Agricultural Practices; 4) Contracts; 5) Whole Farm Planning Considerations; and 6) Farms with Experience.

Central New York Resource Conservation and Development, Inc. (CNY RC&D) consultants and staff organized the Workshop, developed the website, edited the fact sheets, and reviewed/edited the educational PowerPoint presentations. Partners First State RC&D (Delaware), University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and Captial RC&D/ Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts/Pennsylvania Environmental Council supported the training by coordinating local arrangements for the 3 video link sites and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Albany County handled the NY site video transmission. Following the Workshop CNY RC&D Consultants then offered up their services to interested extension, non-profit, government and farmer-educators to help facilitate workshops hosted by participants. A web designer was hired to create a registration interface, website design, carbon trading list serve and database collection. The list serve was created for Workshop participants to share information and obtain assistance. At least 40 educators signed on to the list serve located at: http://groups.google.com/group/agcarbon?hl=en. The website also handled Workshop registration and continues to serve as an electronic resource, as it contains the fact sheets and PowerPoint presentations, as well as other resource information.

An outside Evaluator was hired to consider various aspects of the project, from the Workshop effectiveness to the subsequent implementation with secondary beneficiaries. The end-of-session questionnaires collected demographic information on participants, prior exposure to carbon trading issues, a series of questions assessing learning outcomes, a question on further training needs, participant outreach strategies, and questions on the level of satisfaction of the Workshop. A final web-based survey was developed to collect action outcome data, seeking to measure specifically how the information gained through the educational efforts was utilized. Each participant was charged with “initiating outreach by one or more of the following activities: organizing local education sessions, giving presentations, working with individual farmers, answering questions, and referring colleagues/farmers/landowners to educational resources.”

Overall, participants were very pleased with the training they received. When asked about their overall impression of the Workshop and the materials they received, the average response was 4.18 (on a 5-Point Likert scale where 1 = Poor and 5 = Excellent).

Participants indicated the speakers were excellent and that the complex topics were well presented. Some felt there was almost too much information to be digested in a one-day workshop, but appreciated all of the information provided to them. Several suggested more breaks or that the workshop could be conducted over two days instead of one. A few of the more knowledgeable participants indicated the level of depth was a bit less than they needed but observed that some other participants seemed a bit overwhelmed. A couple of participants indicated a frustration over answers to questions that included, “We’ll see” or “We don’t know.”

Although many participants indicated they were impressed that people from four states were able to benefit from the same workshop, through the use of video conferencing, there were two challenges identified for some remote site participants. They indicated they would have liked to have had copies of the PowerPoint slides to refer to during the Workshop at their site and didn’t need to see the other remote site audiences, only the presenter and/or screen at the live site. Some sites indicated they had trouble seeing the slides and that the use of a pointer by a presenter was completely lost on participants at remote sites because they couldn’t see the pointer. The PowerPoint challenge was the result of a breakdown in communication as all remote site hosts were supposed to have made the PowerPoint presentations available.

Usefulness of Educational Materials and Activities: The web-based survey asked participants to assess the educational materials and activities that were developed for this project. The chart below illustrates their responses. The Workshop was well received with 94% of the respondents saying they were useful (ranging from ‘extremely useful’ to ‘somewhat useful’) and none of the respondents finding the Workshop ‘not useful’.

The resource manual, website and fact sheets were also highly regarded with 84%, 72%, and 73% respectively finding these materials useful (ranging from ‘extremely useful’ to ‘somewhat useful’) with no respondents finding them ‘not useful’.

The PowerPoint presentations were found to be less useful than the other materials, with 59% of respondents listing these as useful (ranging between ‘extremely useful’ and ‘somewhat useful’) and one respondent listing these as ‘not useful’. Likewise, one-on-one consultations with project staff was not ranked as highly as the other educational resources, yet those who used these did find them to be extremely helpful. The one-on-one consultation had the second highest ranking of not used with 56% of respondents saying they did not use this resource. Of the participants that did use the one-on-one consultation with project staff, they commented that the project staff (Jeni Wightman was cited specifically) was extremely helpful.

The list serve was the least useful educational resource listed, with only 34% of respondents finding this to be useful (ranging from ‘extremely useful’ to ‘somewhat useful’). The list serve was also the least used resource with 62% of respondents saying they did not use this resource.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

The following accomplishments were attained in relation to the participant milestones. Well over 1,500 Extension, NRCS and NGOs and other educators received the announcement of 4 regional “Carbon Trading: Market Opportunities for Agriculture” Workshop, exceeding the target of 1,000 contacts.

One hundred forty-one (141) educators registered and 120 attended the Workshop, short of the 200 projected, and received the resource manual including fact sheets, PowerPoint presentations, and articles.

Of the 120 workshop attendees, and 100 projected to share information with 200 colleagues and 300 farmers/landowners through answering questions, copying fact sheets or website referrals, only 52 participants completed an end-of-project survey detailing actions taken as a result of this training. Of these respondents 100% had completed at least one outreach activity, with many having completed numerous activities with numerous parties. A total of 1,342 activities were reported completed by participants, well exceeding the total the project anticipated. The largest group that participants shared information with was their colleagues, with 453 listed as being assisted or receiving information. The second largest group that participants reported they assisted or shared information with were farmers, with 443 farmers assisted. An additional two respondents wrote they had shared information with 25,000 and 700 plus farmers respectively. This may have been through a newsletter or other widely distributed media source. Additionally, 178 community members and 80 forestry professionals were listed as having been assisted or having received information from a project participant. An additional 17 educational programs were being planned at the time of the final web survey. Additionally, numerous other non-workshop-attendee contacts were directed to the information on the website: www.agcarbontrading.org/learn.

Of the 60 projected educators initiating educational outreach by organizing local educational sessions or giving presentations only 15 Educators in the Northeast utilized CNY RC&D consultants and staff to organize and conduct workshops and/or give one or more formal presentations on marketing carbon credits. These used information from the training workshop, including PowerPoint presentations and fact sheets, found in the resource manual and on the website. Consultants worked with varied intensity as per the wishes of the 15 educators. The participant workshops occurred in Vermont, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey. More than 370 secondary beneficiaries attended these particular workshops. One (1) educator was interviewed on public television with a viewing population of 200,000. Two (2) educators had registered, but were unable to attend the May 20, 2008 Workshop, however they gave presentations using only the website and consultation provided by CNY RC&D consultants. One (1) educator is utilizing a PowerPoint presentation from the training workshop as a resource and has posted it on her organization’s website, which is available to all website visitors. Additionally, one educator wrote an article for her county’s farm newsletter discussing carbon trading.

Course corrections were needed to achieve the above milestones. The most significant change was going from 4 separate live workshops around the region to 1 live workshop with regional satellite links from NY to DE, NH and PA. Another strategy was encouraging and relying on fewer educators to do more formal workshops each. One (1) NRCS educator organized and/or conducted 4 workshops including 2 regional and 1 national presentations. This strategy required additional consultant assistance not previously anticipated and these services were arranged by CNY RC&D to more robustly support educators wishing to conduct workshops after further guidance and training provided by the consultants. Despite the quality and usefulness of the resource manual it was discovered that reliance on the website was the preferred method of attaining the necessary information for participants in conducting their outreach. Additional time and effort went into improving the website and its availability and value to participants. Example: One (1) NRCS educator created a regional “Introduction to Carbon Trading” presentation utilizing the website alone (no consultant assistance) and followed this with a second presentation that was for the intermediate level, again created with no outside assistance beyond the website resources.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

Well over 1,500 Extension, NRCS, NGOs and other educators received the announcement of 4 regional Carbon Trading: Market Opportunities for Agriculture Workshops. One hundred forty-six (146) educators registered and 120 attended the Workshop and received the resource manual including 38 fact sheets, 8 PowerPoint presentations, and articles. Additionally, other contacts were directed to this information on the website: www.agcarbontrading.org/learn. Between September 2008 and May 2009, an 8 month period, more than 800 unique visitors logged onto the website, on average returning at least one additional time. Testimonial: “Thank you very much for forwarding the link to the SARE website on the carbon trading conf. That was exactly the level of information the lists needed to have a better understanding of the generalities and the specifics of carbon trading. Great job! Gary, Cornell University

One hundred fourteen (114) participants, including 34 Extension, 24 NRCS, 17 farmer/landowners, 12 non-profit organizations, 7 soil & water conservation district, 5 private firm, 15 others (e.g. university faculty, banks, state agency) individuals completed an end-of-session questionnaire, which provided relevant demographic data. Learning Outcomes: When asked about whether or not they felt adequately informed PRIOR to the workshop, 96 (84%) indicated no and 61% (70 participants) felt they did not have resources to refer to when asked about Carbon Trading. The evaluation data from the end-of-session questionnaire indicated an increase in knowledge, as all of the participants indicated they felt as though their knowledge about Carbon Trading had increased and 55 (48%) indicated their knowledge had increased very much. Almost all (90%) indicated they felt better able to help others who asked about Carbon Trading. Of the 90 people (79%) who responded to the question about sufficient resources to make decisions to help others with issues around carbon trading, all felt they now had sufficient resources as a result of this training program. The same number indicated their interest in the topic had increased as well.

Fifty-two (52) participants completed a final on-line survey gauging changes in behavior through specific actions of which 100% had completed at least one outreach activity, with many having completed numerous activities. A total of 1,342 activities were reported completed by participants, well exceeding what the project intended. Outreach activities included:
• 634 fact sheets related to carbon trading distributed;
• 392 referrals to web-based information made;
• 129 one-on-one consultations conducted by the participants to farmers, agency staff, and/or to colleagues who sought to learn more about carbon trading;
• 147 phone consultations;
• 40 workshops given.

Fifteen (15) Educators in the Northeast utilized CNY RC&D consultants and staff to organize and conduct workshops giving one or more formal presentations on marketing carbon credits. They used information from the training workshop including PowerPoint presentations, fact sheets from the resource manual and available on the website. Consultants worked with varied intensity as per the wishes of these 15 educators. The participant workshops occurred in Vermont, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey. More than 370 secondary beneficiaries attended these particular workshops.

One (1) educator was interviewed on public television with a viewing population of 200,000 people. Two (2) other educators had registered but were unable to attend the May 20, 2008 workshop; however they gave presentations using only the website and consultation provided by CNY RC&D consultants. One (1) educator is utilizing one of the PowerPoint presentations from the training, which is posted on her organization’s website, making it available to all website visitors. Additionally, one educator wrote an article for her county’s farm newsletter discussing carbon trading.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The following accomplishments were attained in relation to the participant milestones. Well over 1,500 Extension, NRCS and NGOs and other educators received the announcement of 4 regional “Carbon Trading: Market Opportunities for Agriculture” Workshop, exceeding the target of 1,000 contacts.

One hundred forty-one (141) educators registered and 120 attended the Workshop, short of the 200 projected, and received the resource manual including fact sheets, PowerPoint presentations, and articles.

Of the 120 workshop attendees, and 100 projected to share information with 200 colleagues and 300 farmers/landowners through answering questions, copying fact sheets or website referrals, only 52 participants completed an end-of-project survey detailing actions taken as a result of this training. Of these respondents 100% had completed at least one outreach activity, with many having completed numerous activities with numerous parties. A total of 1,342 activities were reported completed by participants, well exceeding the total the project anticipated. The largest group that participants shared information with was their colleagues, with 453 listed as being assisted or receiving information. The second largest group that participants reported they assisted or shared information with were farmers, with 443 farmers assisted. An additional two respondents wrote they had shared information with 25,000 and 700 plus farmers respectively. This may have been through a newsletter or other widely distributed media source. Additionally, 178 community members and 80 forestry professionals were listed as having been assisted or having received information from a project participant. An additional 17 educational programs were being planned at the time of the final web survey. Additionally, numerous other non-workshop-attendee contacts were directed to the information on the website: www.agcarbontrading.org/learn.

Of the 60 projected educators initiating educational outreach by organizing local educational sessions or giving presentations only 15 Educators in the Northeast utilized CNY RC&D consultants and staff to organize and conduct workshops and/or give one or more formal presentations on marketing carbon credits. These used information from the training workshop, including PowerPoint presentations and fact sheets, found in the resource manual and on the website. Consultants worked with varied intensity as per the wishes of the 15 educators. The participant workshops occurred in Vermont, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey. More than 370 secondary beneficiaries attended these particular workshops. One (1) educator was interviewed on public television with a viewing population of 200,000. Two (2) educators had registered, but were unable to attend the May 20, 2008 Workshop, however they gave presentations using only the website and consultation provided by CNY RC&D consultants. One (1) educator is utilizing a PowerPoint presentation from the training workshop as a resource and has posted it on her organization’s website, which is available to all website visitors. Additionally, one educator wrote an article for her county’s farm newsletter discussing carbon trading.

Course corrections were needed to achieve the above milestones. The most significant change was going from 4 separate live workshops around the region to 1 live workshop with regional satellite links from NY to DE, NH and PA. Another strategy was encouraging and relying on fewer educators to do more formal workshops each. One (1) NRCS educator organized and/or conducted 4 workshops including 2 regional and 1 national presentations. This strategy required additional consultant assistance not previously anticipated and these services were arranged by CNY RC&D to more robustly support educators wishing to conduct workshops after further guidance and training provided by the consultants. Despite the quality and usefulness of the resource manual it was discovered that reliance on the website was the preferred method of attaining the necessary information for participants in conducting their outreach. Additional time and effort went into improving the website and its availability and value to participants. Example: One (1) NRCS educator created a regional “Introduction to Carbon Trading” presentation utilizing the website alone (no consultant assistance) and followed this with a second presentation that was for the intermediate level, again created with no outside assistance beyond the website resources.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

CNY RC&D was selected and presented this project at the national level in Albuquerque, New Mexico on June 15, 2009. The CNY RC&D Carbon Committee Chair Robert Aman and the USDA – NRCS RC&D Coordinator Phil Metzger were invited to share our resources and outcomes. What is exciting about this is that the project information has now been spread across the country.

Motivation to participate in the Project: The web-based survey included a question on why the participants elected to learn about carbon trading at this point in their careers. The responses were quite varied; the following is a partial list capturing the common reasons given. They indicate potential contributions of this training and further training to address:
• Increased interest in mitigating global climate change and the potential for rural landowners to gain some income from sequestering carbon;
• Obtaining background information on how carbon trading could be used to evaluate the benefits of NRCS Conservation practices;
• Assessing the economic impact of carbon trading on agriculture;
• Awareness of what’s new in agriculture;
• Assessing the role of animal manure management and increased nutrient cycling on pastures to increase carbon content in the soil;
• Seeing if carbon trading could provide financial incentives for conservation professionals to promote land stewardship on private lands;
• Requests for further information from local farmers on carbon trading;
• Key regional policy/planning issues for upstate NY agriculture;
• Carbon trading as a hot topic for forestry initiatives;
• Carbon trading application in research on alternative energy;
• A compelling mix of sustainable agriculture practices, good soil management, and the economics of farming in relation to carbon trading.

It is anticipated that a more advanced carbon trading education program could also be created utilizing the website resources due to the improvements/upgrades carried out by CNY RC&D consultants.

Future Recommendations

One region-wide recommendation is to train soil & water conservation district, cooperative extension, non-profit personnel and farmer-educators to help farms quantify carbon credit baselines much like the nitrogen and phosphorous whole farm assessments. This could be done to enhance current job duties or as a new income generating opportunity.

In a survey question participants were asked to suggest additional materials that would be helpful to them. The following is a list of their suggestions: 1) Link the Carbon Trading web site to the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals web site, 2) Cap-and-Trade versus Carbon Tax discussion/sites, 3) More about carbon trading and how it can benefit farmers, and 4) Provide a DVD format of the resource manual.

Additional workshops providing more depth on each topic were recommended. It is anticipated that an advanced carbon trading education program could also be created utilizing the website resources due to the improvements/upgrades carried out by CNY RC&D consultants.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.