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Economic Potential for GHG Mitigation in the Agriculture Sector. Carol Jones, Jan Lewandrowski, Mark Peters and Robert House Economic Research Service with support from Marlen Eve, Keith Paustian, and Mark Sperow, Agricultural Research Service and NREL/CSU.

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economic potential for ghg mitigation in the agriculture sector
Economic Potential for GHG Mitigation in the Agriculture Sector

Carol Jones, Jan Lewandrowski,

Mark Peters and Robert House

Economic Research Service

with support from

Marlen Eve, Keith Paustian, and Mark Sperow,

Agricultural Research Service and NREL/CSU

Forestry and Agriculture GHG Modeling Forum,

Oct. 9-11, 2002

  • Policy design questions and scope of the analysis
  • ERS US agricultural sector modeling framework
  • Modeling results
  • Summary
policy issues
Policy Issues
  • Issues in design of payment structure
    • Permanence:
      • “Full” payment during contract period or
      • Pay-as-you-store (“discount” payment)
    • For gross or net sequestration?
      • Only positive payment for sequestration Positive payment net of debit for land-based emissions
    • Include cost-share?
scope of analysis
Scope of Analysis
  • Carbon sequestration in US ag sector
  • Activities:
    • Land use change to forest from croplands, pasture
    • Land use change to grasslands from croplands
    • Cropland management
      • Conservation tillage
      • Changes in rotations, cover crops/ fallow
modeling framework
Modeling Framework
  • USMP national agricultural sector model
  • EPIC biophysical model
  • Carbon accounting:
    • IPCC inventory procedures for carbon accounting: cropland management, and conversion of grasslands
    • Birdsey forestry accounting: afforestation
endogenous variables
Endogenous Variables
  • Domestic consumption, exports/imports
  • Production quantities and prices
  • Production technologies:
    • Rotations
    • Tillage practices
    • Nitrogen fertilizer application rates
  • Input use:
    • Land, labor, capital, purchased inputs
  • Environmental outcomes






Crop production













Animal product






Beginning stocks

USMP Summary Schematic

cropland c sequestration rates ipcc inventory method
Cropland C-Sequestration Rates: IPCC Inventory Method
  • Simplified carbon inventory procedure
  • Features and assumptions:
    • Top 30” of soil profile
    • 20-year inventory period: steady state achieved in the 20-year period
  • Sequestration parameters vary with:
    • Regional soil type and climate
    • Rotation types: fallow, organic improvements, residue input factor
    • Tillage
birdsey carbon sequestration rates for afforestation
Birdsey Carbon Sequestration Rates for Afforestation
  • 8 regions
  • Above and below ground carbon pools: soil, litter, trees, understory
  • Average forest management intensity
policy scenarios
Policy Scenarios

All policies have 15-year contract period

  • S1:“Discounted” carbon payments for storage during contract period for net sequestration, no cost-share (Reference Policy)
  • S2:“Full” carbon payments up frontfor net sequestration, no cost-share
  • S3: “Discounted” carbon payments for net sequestration, with cost-share for LUC
  • S4: “Discounted” carbon payments for gross sequestration, no cost-share

Net CarbonSequestration

S1 Reference Policy: Discounted payments on net seq.

changes in net farm income during contract period s1 discounted payments on net sequestration
Changes in Net Farm Income During Contract Period:S1: Discounted payments on net sequestration
s2 full payment upfront vs s1 discount pay as you store
S2: “Full” Payment Upfront vs. S1: “Discount”(Pay-As-You-Store)
  • PDV of payments are same, timing differs:
    • “Discount” (S1): receive .354 of full price in years 1-15 [& receive full price over time - if permanent]
    • “Full” (S2): receive full payment up front during contract period
  • Different behavioral assumptions:
    • Pay-as-you-store assumes payment is necessary to provide incentive to maintain practice
    • “Full” payment assumes farmer continues sequestering practice after payments end

Net Carbon Sequestration

S2 Full vs. S2 Discounted sequestration payments

s2 full payment upfront vs s1 pay as you store
S2 “Full” Payment Upfront vs. S1 Pay-As-You-Store
  • Two scenarios provide a range of estimates of response to carbon price
    • At $25, 1 MMT - 3 MMT cropland mgmt; 6 MMT - 37 MMT total net sequestration
    • At $125, 8 MMT - 13 MMT cropland mgmt; 93 MMT - 362 MMT total net sequestration
how to interpret the range of estimates
How to Interpret the Range of Estimates?
  • Reasonable behavioral assumptions?
  • Is consistency of outcomes to policy design robust to alternative behavior?
    • “Full” payment not robust
      • If sequestration ends with contract period, then have overpaid by factor of 1/.354 = 2.8
    • Pay-as-you-store is robust
      • If sequestration is permanent, then - over duration of permanent storage - pay PDV-equivalent to full payment during contract period
s2 full payment upfront vs s1 pay as you store1
S2: “Full” Payment Upfront vs. S1: Pay-As-You-Store
  • Alternatively, can interpret full payment in pay-as-you-store framework:
    • $125 discount price  $353 “full” price
  • Grassland not competitive at these prices
    • Even in regions where forestry is not viable (Mountain, Plains states)
      • Threshold appears to be $125/$353: Southern Plains states have 4000 acres afforested
s3 cost share for establishing grasslands forest
S3 Cost-share for Establishing Grasslands, Forest
  • Promotes more afforestation, but increase in seq. levels off at + 6 MMT by $25
  • Share of subsidy/ton is high at low prices, but declines substantially with carbon price
  • At higher carbon prices, there is partial offset due to reduction in cropland sequestration
  • S3 may be more slightly cost-effective than S1, but distorts choice among activities
s4 gross vs s1 net sequestration payments
S4 Gross vs. S1 Net Sequestration Payments
  • Focus on cropland leakage (no forest sector leakage in the model)
  • Lower levels of net sequestration
  • Huge increase in program cost - ratios of S4 costs to S1 costs are:
    • For 1 MMT sequestration, 75 x
    • For 3 MMT sequestration, 16 x
    • For 5 MMT sequestration, 9 x
s4 gross vs s1 net sequestration payments1
S4 Gross vs. S1 Net Sequestration Payments
  • Land in production

1) Switches from conservation to conventional - yield incentive w/no carbon debit increases emissions

2) Switches from conventional to conservation - carbon incentive increases sequestration

3) Omitted: tilling land now in conservation to establish future eligibility increases emissions

B) Idle land brought into crop production

Increases emissions, whether practice:

1) conservationtillage (in program) or

2) conventional tillage (not in program)

s4 gross vs s1 net sequestration payments2
S4 Gross vs. S1 Net Sequestration Payments
  • Relative to S1, S4 farm income starts out higher at low carbon prices but is equal at $125
    • S4 incentive payments are 25% higher at $125
    • BUT: commodity price increases are much smaller (so producer surplus does not increase as much)
  • “Full” payments upfront vs. pay-as-you-store:
    • Important to distinguish which policy is employed in reporting marginal cost analysis
    • Pay-as-you-store is more robust across alternative behaviors
  • Cost-share of establishment costs:
    • Small impact on sequestration across price levels
    • May be slightly more cost-effective than without, but distorts choices if not applied to all activities
  • Gross sequestration payments:
    • Substantially cut net sequestration
    • Substantially increase costs per ton of net sequestration
    • Do not (substantially) increase farm income