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Initiative links farmers, businesses to help reduce carbon footprint



The Oklahoma Carbon Initiative, a program of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, is helping state farmers earn money when they practice sustainable agriculture and reduce greenhouse gases. The initiative brokers contracts between the farmers " whose sustainable practices create carbon credits " and the individual or organization that needs to purchase those credits, allowing the entities to offset their carbon footprints.

To qualify, landowners, ranchers and farmers agree to certain sustainable practices, including carbon sequestration and no till farming. Carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide, is trapped in the soil and in plant life as it is absorbed. Since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, keeping the carbon in the ground reduces greenhouse gases from Oklahoma and offsets the impact of energy companies, power plants and automobiles.

Sarah Love, the director of the initiative, said the program started in August 2008. She has been trying to sign up buyers and sellers ever since.

"I basically act as an aggregator between people who have credits to sell and people who want to buy them," Love said. "The good thing about buying carbon credits through the OCI is that we guarantee 100 percent verification."

The Chicago Climate Exchange also handles carbon credit transactions, but they are not required to do 100 percent verification. According to Love, they don't do the kind of targeted advertising and public relations that leads to a win-win between landowner and buyer either.

"We target the agriculture community through publications and meetings," she said. "We also have targeted legislative outreach, where we educate and encourage our representatives to help the process. Also, we're advocating for additional benefits for earlier adopters."

Love said she believes those earlier adopters will be people who want to mitigate climate change and reduce their impact on the environment. Purchasing carbon credits allows them to do both.

Bud Scott, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club in Oklahoma, said he believes in the program and the Sierra Club will continue to work with OCI to promote programs, education and outreach to the agricultural and industrial communities. This is one program where the historical differences between the two communities can be put aside for a common purpose.

Steve House is a cattle rancher and soybean farmer near Watonga. He signed a contract with OCI to sell his credits this year. "I'm not sure what we'll get, maybe two to six dollars an acre, but I believe the program has a lot of merit."

House said the program pays him to fence waterways that feed into the North Canadian River to keep cattle off the ground and pesticides out of the water. "That's a program that is good for us and good for Oklahoma City's clean water," House said. "Greg Horton

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