In many ways the carbon market is in a place similar to where the organic market was 25 years ago, before the USDA stepped in to establish national organic standards, according to Alejandro Plastina, an economist at Iowa State University.
“Carbon credits have been around for a number of years,” Plastina says, citing their use by power plants and other industrial participants.
Plastina says it is possible that if the USDA establishes uniform carbon standards, the market could take off in much the same way the organic market did two decades ago.
But there are concerns. Farmers and farm organizations shouldn’t oversell the economic or environmental impact of the programs, Plastina says. If they do and testing eventually shows the gains are small and temporary, it could hurt the market and farmers in the long run.