Under the Kyoto protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change the United States is charged with reducing emissions of greenhouse gases to seven percent below their 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. These reductions could be met from many industries including agriculture. In this paper, an economic simulation model is linked to the CENTURY ecosystem model to quantify the economic efficiency of policies that might be used to sequester carbon (C) in agricultural soils in the Northern Great Plains region. Model outputs are combined to assess the costs of inducing changes in equilibrium levels of soil C through three types of policies. The first is a CRP-style policy that provides producers with per-acre payments for converting crop-land to permanent grass; the second is a policy that provides per-acre payments to all farmers that use continuous cropping, regardless of the land's cropping history; the third is a policy that provides per-acre payments for the use of continuous cropping only on land units that had previously been in a crop/fallow rotation. The analysis shows that a CRP-style policy is found to be an inefficient means to increase soil C resulting in costs that typically exceed $100 per MT (metric ton) of C. In contrast, payments to adopt continuous cropping were found to produce increases in soil C for between $5 to $70/MT depending on the geographic area and degree of targeting of the payments. The most efficient, lowest cost policy is achieved when payments are targeted to land that was previously in a crop/fallow rotation. In this range, soil C sequestration appears to be competitive with C sequestered from other sources.


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