USDA Secretary Vilsack has been trumpeting that a cap and trade system will be a boon to U.S. agriculture, while almond growers are wondering why they can't get credit for growing trees if urban trees and forests can.
A cap and trade system sets maximum limits, or "caps," on the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) for industries that are major emitters. Those who reduce emissions below prescribed levels can sell or "trade" excess emissions credits to companies that are subject to a cap but cannot achieve the required reductions. Uncapped industries that voluntarily reduce their GHG emissions can sell their "offsets" in the market as well.
The Air Resources Board (ARB) recently released its proposal for a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse emissions in California, effective 2012. The proposal contains the criteria these offsets need to meet; they include "real, permanent, quantifiable, verifiable, enforceable and additional."
The Almond Board is examining which practices might provide credible offsets and what research to fund to develop the necessary data. Examples of these potential practices might include increasing soil organic matter by adding chipping residue to the soil, or finding ways to reduce GHG emissions from fertilizer use.
What about that tree credit? Unlikely, as the sense is growers would have planted those trees anyway — that is, it is not above and beyond, (additional) what you would be doing anyway.