Embracing the Future: Ontario Farmland Trust’s Perspective on Carbon Offsets and Sustainable Agriculture

As an organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of Ontario’s farmlands, the Ontario Farmland Trust (OFT) is heartened by the growing recognition of the diverse values of farmland. Beyond their role in producing food, our farmland offers many ecosystem services. This includes rich potential for “carbon sequestration”, defined by Oxford Languages as “a process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form”. 

The recent Carbon Offsets for Farmers report by Smart Prosperity Institute, shares emerging options for farmers to engage in carbon offset markets, which can be seen to exist at the intersection of environmental stewardship and economic viability. Since the Ontario government does not have a carbon offset protocol, Ontario farmers will either have to wait for the federal program or explore voluntary market opportunities.

Sustainable Agriculture: A Win-Win for Climate and Farmers

The Smart Property Institute’s report shows how sustainable farming practices can address climate change and support farmer livelihoods at the same time. By using methods such as conservation tillage, cover cropping, and nitrogen management, farmers can play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These practices not only contribute to environmental health but also open up new revenue streams through carbon credits. Both benefits are crucial in today’s volatile global markets and changing climate conditions.

The Role of Carbon Offset Markets

Carbon offset markets, both voluntary and compliance-based, offer financial rewards for climate-friendly actions. In Canada, the evolving federal and provincial carbon pricing regimes create an attractive environment for carbon offsets. The report’s insight into these markets is helpful to understand how farmers can participate and benefit from them. 

Advocating for Farmland Protection in Carbon Offset Protocols

While the current prospects of carbon offsets for farmers are promising, OFT believes it is vital to also integrate the long-term protection of farmland into these protocols. This ensures that the carbon sequestered stays captured over time, protecting the environmental benefits and the agricultural use of the land. One great example is the Canada Grassland Protocol by the Climate Action Reserve. This protocol mandates the use of Qualified Land Conservation Agreements (or Farmland Conservation Easements, as OFT refers to them) to ensure sustainable and long-term protection of carbon-sequestering grasslands. OFT advocates for similar requirements in carbon offset protocols for farmland. This ensures farmland is conserved, as the precious resource it is, for future generations.

The Path Forward

As we face the challenges of climate change, it is more important than ever to protect our finite farmland. The opportunities presented by carbon offsets for farmers align well with OFT’s mission. 

We encourage the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices and support inclusion of farmland protection measures in carbon offset protocols. By doing so, we not only contribute to the fight against climate change but also support the economic stability and resilience of our farming communities.

OFT remains committed to this cause by advocating for policies and practices that ensure the long-term protection and sustainability of Ontario’s farmlands. We believe that together, we can make a difference for our environment, our farmers, and our future.

Have you engaged with carbon markets on your farm, and what was your experience? We’d love to hear from you! Contact us at info@ontariofarmlandtrust.ca to share your experience and insight.