Agricultural Climate Markets Collaborative

The Issue

Agricultural soils are a large land-based sink for atmospheric carbon with additional potential to contribute to the sequestration of atmospheric carbon, though questions still remain as to the magnitude and rate of this mitigation opportunity. This potential has spurred a desire to connect growers with carbon markets to realize the environmental and economic value of agricultural practices. Concurrently, the markets are facing increasing scrutiny as well, given the evolving science, the necessity of mitigating our climate impact, and increasing public interest. For market providers to effectively and efficiently advocate for their shared interests, it has become imperative to identify and communicate about what, among the current and potential approaches, merits pre-competitive standardization and what public policies and programs should be in place to appropriately support the viability and competitiveness of these marketplaces.  

About the Collaborative

The Agricultural Climate Markets Collaborative is a voluntary group facilitated by the Keystone Policy Center to identify collective, precompetitive actions that could create more transparency and build trust in the marketplace; provide more coordinated and consistent feedback to protocol bodies, USDA, and others; and ultimately contribute to a clearer marketplace that can scale towards meaningful impact.

Principles for Transparency

The first step that the Collaborative has taken is to create a set of voluntary precompetitive principles for transparency for carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and ecosystem service credit program developers, and corporations with supply chain sustainability programs. The Collaborative hopes the principles unveiled today helps scale market-based climate solutions for agriculture by keeping both growers and buyers informed on each of the following:

  1. Farm and entity eligibility for programs
  2. Contract obligations for program participants
  3. Asset types generated by a program
  4. Standards used by the program developer
  5. Data required from program participants
  6. Models used to generate credits
  7. Ownership and transferability of the credits generated
  8. Program participant financial obligations and payments
  9. Data ownership and privacy
  10. Contractual implications of noncompliance and acts of God
  11. Required relationship between program developer and participant

Click here to read the detailed principles and issue explanations. The Collaborative will continue to address issues and challenges specific to applying market-based approaches to climate change mitigation in the agricultural context – with the intention to engage with stakeholders such as growers, carbon registries, supply chain companies, and the USDA.

Questions for Growers to Ask Program Providers

The first goal of the Principles for Transparency is to give growers who participate in voluntary contractual programs that pay for ecosystem services, such as climate markets, easy access to the information they need to determine which program is right for them. The following questions correspond to the principles, and program developers who have signed onto the principles should be able to answer them.

As a grower, I want to know…

  1. Can I participate in your program given my location, production system, land ownership status, and the other programs I am involved in?
  2. What will be the duration of my contract? Is it transferable, and what happens if I cannot entirely fulfill it?
  3. How will my actions translate into credits or claims and for which ecosystem services?
  4. How do I know the accounting, reporting, and verification standards used to generate credits or claims are credible?
  5. What data will be required of me to participate, and how will it be collected? How much of my time will it take to do so?
  6. Who will own the ecosystem value created by my actions, and is it transferrable?
  7. What will I need to pay, and what payments will be due to me? How will the value of the claims or credits I make translate to the payment I receive, and is there any uncertainty in those amounts given the models and protocols your program uses?
  8. Who owns my data, and how will it be kept private? Does this program follow Ag Data Transparent principles?
  9. How will my contract account for events outside of my control, such as extreme weather and other risks?
  10. Is anything else required of me to participate in this contract? Are any customer, membership, or other relationship requirements attached to it?


The following organizations endorse the principles as best practice for the program developers of agricultural climate markets.

The following organizations contributed to the development of these principles.

  • EDF
  • Farmers Business Network
  • Field to Market
  • Strategic Conservation Solutions

If your organization would like to endorse these principles, please email Jonathan Geurts at


Learn more about the Agricultural Climate Markets Collaborative by listening to the following episode of the Keynotes podcast.