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New study recommends strengthening farmer incentives and emissions measurement to reduce agricultural greenhouse gases

Team of researchers outline policy approaches to reduce climate impacts for a net-zero future

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A multi-institutional group of researchers has authored a new report on agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that recommends strengthening farmer incentives and emissions measurement to cultivate policies for a net-zero future.

The study titled, “Policies to Increase Mitigation of Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” was authored by six researchers: Michael Toman (Resources for the Future, RFF), Justin Baker (North Carolina State University), Robert Beach (RTI International), Hongli Feng (Iowa State University), Eileen McLellan (Environmental Defense Fund), and Emily Joiner (RFF).

“The challenge is to find ways to meet our growing demand for agricultural products with a smaller carbon footprint,” said Beach, a senior economist at RTI. “Agricultural production is very heterogenous and requires further measurement of emissions and localized analyses to find optimal solutions while also mitigating unintended negative consequences of potential changes.”

The issue brief identifies three promising policy approaches:

  • Increased government co-financing to encourage low-emissions agricultural techniques   
  • “Climate-smart” agricultural commodity programs that promote goods with lower GHG intensities  

  • Emissions reduction credit mechanisms that allow farmers and ranchers to sell credits to other parties

The authors also acknowledge potential barriers that could hinder the adoption of lower-GHG practices including technological and economic knowledge barriers, social and behavioral barriers and measurement uncertainty. They also note the importance of designing policies that avoid unintended consequences, such as negative impacts on environmental outcomes unrelated to climate change, or carbon sequestration benefits that are offset by higher emissions of nitrous oxide from fertilizer use.

Read the full paper

Learn more about RTI’s Center for Climate Solutions