Published January 5, 2009 08:43 AM

New cash crop for farmers could be carbon trade

Carbon emissions are increasingly at the forefront of policy issues, and experts say agricultural practices could play a role in decreasing emissions while providing farmers with a new cash crop.

"You can't go to a newsstand today without seeing major publications with sustainability, climate change or energy on the cover," said Jim Mulhern, a founding partner of Watson/Mulhern and veteran policy strategist and communicator with 20 years experience in Washington public policy issues.

Mulhern addressed the role of agriculture in sustainability, climate change and energy at a joint meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association and Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program.


Sustainability is both an environmental issue and an energy issue. Farmers must be able to provide consumers with the nutritious food they want in a way that makes the industry, people and the earth better off economically, environmentally and socially now and for future generations, Mulhern said.

Productivity will also remain important due to increasing population. Growing populations in China and India have a growing appetite for a Western diet.

In addition to remaining sustainable while meeting productivity challenges, agriculture will also have a growing role in decreasing carbon emissions.

There are several approaches to decreasing companies' carbon emissions, Mulhern said. Companies could be simply required to decrease them, or a tax mechanism put in place to discourage carbon emissions. These options may lead to costs being passed to consumers.

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