In the voluntary carbon market, you have farmers who produce carbon credits through proper land management, sellers who work as the broker between the farmer and buyer, and buyers who purchase these credits to offset their carbon footprint.
Within this ecosystem, there are third party verifiers who ensure that the amount of carbon sequestration farmers report is true. These verifiers must act as third parties, and to ensure transparency, carbon credit companies usually require documentation to prove there are no conflicts of interest before moving forward.
Farmers are expected to contract with a verifier independently, and usually carbon credit companies will advise farmers on which companies they prefer to work with. This part of the marketplace is important for farmers to understand. When carbon credit companies tout ‘zero cost’ for farmers in the brokerage system, they leave out the cost of hiring a third party verifier because technically the company can’t be involved in the verification due to a conflict of interest. Using third party verifiers does require farmers to pay. And the ‘better’ verifiers charge more per acre.
This is because the marketplace has different standards for the worthiness of credits. For example, deep dives into land usage, livestock/crop rotations, yearly soil samples, and granular tractor data for the last 30 years may result in higher quality credits than ones built with less information. These credits can be sold at a higher rate compared to their less granular counterparts. In the case of carbon credits, having as much data as possible is a must. Understandably, this can be frustrating for farmers who do not have precise field data ranging over several decades.
My advice to farmers: do your research on the carbon broker you want to partner with and identify what verifier(s) they prefer to work with. Do not be afraid to ask how much it will cost to get your carbon sequestration verified, and push to make the process as transparent as possible.
The voluntary carbon credit marketplace is a brilliant opportunity to generate a positive global impact, but approaching each step with a healthy degree of curiosity and caution is the way to go.