Photo by: Roman Synkevych (Unsplash)

Verra has released a new Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) methodology that enables farmers and ranchers to access new revenue streams from “farming carbon”. The Methodology for Improved Agricultural Land Management (IALM Methodology) — developed in collaboration with Indigo Ag, a company dedicated to harnessing nature to help farmers sustainably feed the planet, and TerraCarbon LLC, a carbon advisory firm — quantifies greenhouse gas emission reductions and enhanced soil organic carbon storage resulting from the adoption of improved agricultural land management practices.

The IALM Methodology incentivizes a range of agricultural land management practices, such as reductions in fertilizer application and tillage, as well as improvements in the following areas: 1) water and residue management; 2) cash crop and cover crop planting and harvest; and 3) livestock management and grazing practices. In addition to reduced emissions and/or enhanced storage of soil organic carbon, these practices can lead to increased soil health and agricultural resilience, which are critical in the face of increasingly frequent climate change-linked extreme weather events such as drought and floods that are already compromising farm profitability and viability.

Scaling Up the Role of the Agricultural Sector in Carbon Markets

The agricultural sector’s participation in carbon markets has been limited to date. This is in part due to the high costs and complexity associated with developing carbon offset projects. By leveraging new technology and incorporating the use of sophisticated biogeochemical models, it is hoped that the new methodology will streamline project development. David Antonioli, CEO of Verra, commented, “We expect the IALM Methodology to achieve the efficiencies needed to overcome past scalability issues. Our aim is ultimately to bring farmers into the fore of efforts to combat climate change whilst improving their incomes and on-farm resilience.”

A Robust and Adaptable Methodology

The new methodology has been approved after extensive input from external scientists, agricultural carbon experts, auditors and project developers, including a 30-day public comment period during which representatives from across the public and private sector provided feedback. Additionally, the IALM Methodology underwent an in-depth third-party validation by Aster Global Environmental Solutions, a global provider in carbon and greenhouse gas validation and verification services.

“The Methodology for Improved Agricultural Land Management represents an important step in unlocking the potential for agriculture to serve as a climate solution and opens the door for farmers to access the billions of dollars flowing into carbon financing,” said Ed Smith, Indigo Ag VP of Carbon. “We are thrilled to have worked with Verra and leading scientific experts to develop this robust methodology, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with the scientific community to support further advances in the field.”

Photo: Dan Meyers (Unsplash)

The carbon offsets issued by projects using the new IALM Methodology represent credible and permanent emission reductions. The quantification approach has been built in a flexible way, incorporating the use of both direct measurements of soil organic carbon stocks and use of advanced biogeochemical models such as DNDC and COMET-Farm that utilize previous management practice, soil, and weather data to quantify changes in soil organic carbon stocks and greenhouse gas fluxes over time. Project proponents are encouraged to adopt the best available science, tools, and data sources, and are able to update their methods and models over time, as understanding of soil carbon science and agricultural greenhouse gas quantification advances.

“The VCS Methodology for Improved Agricultural Land Management requires conservative accounting procedures, robust statistical uncertainty determination, and a high degree of model and data transparency,” said Keith Paustian, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and Senior Research Scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University. “These key features of the methodology help ensure rigorous greenhouse gas quantification and are critical elements of credible agricultural carbon offset project development.”

Putting It into Practice

To be eligible for participation, projects must

  • introduce or implement project activities in the form of one or more new changes to pre-existing agricultural management practices;
  • be implemented on land that is either cropland or grassland at the project start date and remains so throughout the project crediting period;
  • not have been cleared of native ecosystems within the 10-year period prior to the project start date; and
  • not be expected to result in a sustained reduction of greater than 5% in productivity.

Furthermore, projects must demonstrate additionality through 1) the identification of barriers (e.g., cultural practices and social norms, attitudes and beliefs) that would prevent the implementation of a change in pre-existing agricultural practices, and 2) a common practice assessment where common practice is defined as greater than 20% adoption (in accordance with the CDM Methodological Tool for Common Practice).

The methodology is internationally available to any project developer through Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program, whose projects have collectively reduced or removed nearly 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from the atmosphere (or the equivalent of 107 million cars taken off roads for a full year). Project proponents will be able to submit projects for validation immediately.

To learn more about the Methodology for Improved Agricultural Land Management, click here to review our Frequently Asked Questions.


A webinar providing an overview of this new methodology was held on 17 November at 11 am EST. To view the recording, please click here.