The first meeting of the Carbon Sequestration Standard Committee was held in Des Moines, Iowa, to create an industry-wide standard for validating carbon offsets resulting from soil carbon sequestration or greenhouse gas emission reductions at the soil interface. The committee was selected by Novecta from leading agriculture businesses and members of the carbon industry including aggregators, verifiers, exchange traders, soil scientists and others interested in carbon measurements.

"The group is developing a standard to validate soil-based carbon offset methodologies and systems that will be broadly accepted," says Gary Delong, Novecta's Managing Director. "This standard is a key step toward rewarding farmers who use environmentally sound farming practices."

A training session was held on writing quality management standards with an emphasis on the carbon industry and specific legislative needs. Novecta approached USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), to provide the committee with an overview of verification services that may be applied to the proposed standard. The Committee requested that AMS consider monitoring the progress of the standard development and serving as a third-party verifier when the standard is completed.

In its discussions, the 20 person committee agreed upon the scope for the standard which would include: A soil based standard that addresses the net change in greenhouse gas in the soil and the soil interface, including fuel used directly for production, and the changes that occur because of agricultural production practices and nutrient management plans.

A first draft of standard was reviewed, and the committee is developing a second draft for review when it reconvenes in mid-October.

"We know other groups are working on various carbon offset protocols and carbon offsetting projects in agriculture, and we would welcome their input," says Delong. "This committee agrees that a standard for quantification and documentation of soil carbon sequestration activities could literally change the way we farm in the future, and we are planning for it today."

The Chicago Climate Exchange currently offers a voluntary soil carbon credit program for farmers in the United States. Various standards are used today to measure carbon, but for the budding US carbon credit trading market to grow, credit purchasers must have confidence in the sequestration credit they are buying to offset their own carbon emissions. "The purpose of developing this carbon standard with input from so many diverse sectors," according to Delong, "is to provide that confidence."