Al Gore promotes carbon markets, regenerative agriculture at D.C. conference

Agriculture can be “one of the most promising and biggest solutions to the climate crisis” as long as carbon sequestration and regenerative practices are implemented, said former vice president Al Gore at the annual Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

The author, investor, and climate advocate has previously promoted topsoil carbon sequestration and carbon markets for farmers as valuable tools in mitigating the climate crisis.

“If we can find out how to reliably measure soil carbon, the reliable sequestration of carbon in soils, then it is not impossible to imagine a day when farmers receive payments for the carbon they have sequestered in their soil,” he said at the conference.

Gore was the keynote speaker at FFAR’s Foster Our Future conference, a gathering of food and agriculture industry stakeholders. He was joined later in the evening by Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who is the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Stabenow and Gore agreed that along with reducing emissions, utilizing agricultural land to sequester carbon is a crucial tool for mitigating climate change. They also discussed the need for greater political will and bipartisanship to move forward with agricultural climate mitigation research and implementation.

“We need to be in a place where we’re talking about science — it can’t be about rhetoric and people blaming each other,” said Stabenow. “It’s dangerous.”

Gore, who runs a 400-acre farm outside Nashville, Tennessee, that serves as a “guinea pig” site for carbon sequestration research, also spoke to the need to “reform our subsidy systems away from bad practices and toward good practices” and for more investment in research and development.

The two politicians also agreed that, in Gore’s words, “there’s a big shift underway” in how commodity agriculture groups and other organizations that have historically resisted climate mitigation see the issue. “It’s not as big as I would like to see, but it’s underway,” he said.

FFAR is a nonprofit organization that was established in the 2014 farm bill with a $200 million investment and a mandate to match that public funding for agricultural research with private money. The group was awarded an additional $185 million in the 2018 farm bill. Its annual budget exceeded $52 million in 2017. It has received some criticism for steering public money toward research projects at the largest agribusiness companies, including General Mills, ADM, and Syngenta.