I'm just returning from doing the two-day Stockman Grass Farmer business school in Calgary, Alberta, with fellow farmer/rancher/SGF columnist Steve Kenyon.
Steve has been practicing first class prairie development and soil building through bio-mimicry in Alberta for a couple of decades and is a great sidekick as a faculty member. He doesn't use bison to build these prairie soils; he uses electric fence, water pipe, and cattle.
One indisputable fact of carbon sequestration is that perennial polyculture grasses like prairie and pasture pump carbon into the soil while tillage and annual monocultures deplete carbon. Nobody contests that. And nobody contests the need to put carbon in the soil.
Canada pays a carbon credit to farmers for practicing modalities that minimize carbon loss. You'd think that would be a good thing, right? You would be wrong.
Last year, a couple from whom Steve rented 320 acres for 14 years passed away. He took these 320 acres and through prairie management built fertility, increased carbon, and diversified the vegetation and animal life on the acreage. The deceased couple's baby boomer children decided to get as much money out of the acreage as fast as they could and switched managers, leasing it to a canola crop farmer.
Of course, he could pay more and in a moment you'll see a reason why. He did not plow down the prairie; he simply nuked it with herbicide. Not once, not twice, but three times. Steve's prairie vitality was so vibrant it took three applications of herbicide to finally kill it all so canola could be planted. The farmer used no-till, the darling of the carbon program, and received a check for $60,000 for practicing good soil stewardship through the carbon credit program.
Steve received nary a penny. Why? Well, grass isn't a crop. It never registers on programmatic radar.
Dear folks, when well-intentioned environmentalists ask for government programs to help things, they seldom realize that by the time the agricultural industrial complex gets down writing the regulations it seldom accomplishes the original intent. In this case, it incentivizes eliminating the prairie and depleting soil carbon. This happens routinely; it is not an isolated case. We simply can't expect government programs to do the yeoman's lifting in responsible living. That is up to individuals and how we purchase things day to day.
Can you think of another instance where a government program did the opposite of its intentions?