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CARBON NEGATIVE. The corn Mitchell Hora no-tills in Washington, Iowa, has a carbon intensity score of -10. A negative score helps the ethanol plant offset its carbon footprint, and in the future, it could translate to a tax credit for the ethanol plant and additional income for Hora. Photo by: Mitchell Hora

Low-Carbon Corn Could Yield Serious Cash for No-Tillers

An upcoming tax credit for ethanol producers could translate to payments to no-tillers who document their practices & verify carbon intensity scores

NO-TILLERS WHO ARE growing corn have an excellent opportunity to cash in on government demands to reduce the overall carbon intensity of the biofuels industry.

Mitchell Hora, founder of Continuum Ag, a soil health data intelligence company in Washington, Iowa, says while agriculture has been discussing carbon credits, ways to measure carbon sequestration and how to sell those credits for years, the real action today is measuring the carbon footprint of every bushel of corn growers produce.

“Your farm’s carbon footprint is a part of the next guy’s carbon footprint,” Hora says. “More specifically, it’s part of the next guy’s scope 3 carbon footprint.”

The U.S. EPA defines scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Scope 1 encompasses direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from sources controlled or owned by an organization, such as fuel combustion in boilers, furnaces and vehicles. Scope 2 emissions are indirect GHG emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat or cooling. Finally, the EPA considers scope 3 emissions as the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organization, but that the organization indirectly affects in its value chain.

“The ethanol plant’s scope 2 carbon footprint represents the plant’s indirect emissions, more specifically energy use in the production process whether it be based on fossil fuel or renewable energy,” Hora says. “Its scope 3 carbon footprint includes the plant’s supply chain, especially the corn going into the facility.”

Tax Incentives

About 40% of the U.S. corn crop goes into ethanol production…

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Dan Crummett

Dan Crummett has more than 35 years in regional and national agricultural journalism including editing state farm magazines, web-based machinery reporting and has an interest in no-till and conservation tillage. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Oklahoma State Univ.

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