On the Farm – Agricultural Economics – Carbon Capture

Farmer-economist Michael Smith comments from More Random News Events of the Week post


My comment on the open thread, “what exactly does the federal government plan to do this is a little mind boggling. The USDA is limited in the resources they have. They can provide grants but it would need congress to fund it.”

A few things I am working through in the consideration of carbon capture:

1. How much is enough? My operation requires $50,000 a year approx. to fund the overhead for us to both live and work on the farm. This might not seem like much, but that is about $25 an hour for a regular 8-5. If we were ranching or were growing silage, those guys have huge amount of expenses between land and equipment and might need to clear $250,000 a year just to break even (mere estimation – needs research).

2. What crop to grow? This is a big one. Last year we tried to seed out some clover in the fall without tillage and that didn’t work. Changing up your process takes time and money. A seed drill to grow corn can’t be used to seed fescue, for example.

3. How much carbon we talking? Most ranchers sequester carbon at an alarming rate. A 200 pound bale of hay can be wiped clean by a few head of cattle very quickly that then excrete all that great manure back onto the soil to make next years grass even better. For my place, over the past year, we have been able to put probably 7 tons per 5 acres back into the ground, between having 5 tons of compost brought in and another 2-3 tons of organic material that has been mulched in. But, I can’t stress this enough, how are we going to measure the tonnage?

4. Weather conditions, crop insurance? To grow stuff you need rain, and as the Powell Parallel goes further and further east each year and more flooding happens in the Mississippi River valley this will be a challenge. 

Just a few things to think about. 

Oh, and single payer needs to hurry the hell up.