Low prices brought on by political uncertainty have prompted AgraGate to suspend new enrollments into its carbon credit program.

In an e-mail to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, AgraGate's Interim CEO Dave Sengpiel said the price of carbon credits traded on the Chicago Climate Exchange have remained low this year due largely to political uncertainty over whether Congress is going to pass a federally mandated cap and trade system for reducing carbon emissions. Whether agricultural credits will be included in the final climate change bill has been unclear, which has further fueled uncertainty about the carbon market.

"If and until the Senate passes a cap-and-trade bill, political uncertainty in the carbon credit market is expected to keep prices low," Sengpiel says. "Despite the suspension of new enrollments, AgraGate is still committed to honoring and servicing the existing offset contracts as well as the contracts currently in process.

"If market conditions improve and the outlook stabilizes, we will reconsider new aggregation activities at that time."

The carbon credit program offered by AgraGate, a subsidiary of Iowa Farm Bureau, has allowed numerous landowners who sequester carbon from the atmosphere through conservation practices to sign contracts and receive credit payments. AgraGate suspended new enrollments in June.

Acres enrolled in the program are pooled as credits for sale on the Chicago Climate Exchange, a private agency that trades greenhouse gases much like other exchanges trade livestock and crops. Corporations, cities and other exchange members buy the credits to help offset their own emissions. Some of those companies have scaled back or even shuttered their operations due to the rough economy.

Farmers and landowners earned carbon credits by growing grasses and trees or using no-till practices that reduce the amount carbon being released by turned-over soil. Livestock producers could also participate by installing systems to capture methane from manure. One credit equals 1 metric ton of sequestered carbon.