n recent years, carbon has become a handy shorthand for climate. Our national lexicon includes “carbon footprints” and “carbon budgets”; we environmental advocates speak of going carbon-neutral or building a low-carbon economy. Measuring carbon molecules has also spread to agriculture as many producers and brands enthusiastically embrace “carbon farming.”
Farmers typically get paid for what they take out of the soil, namely crops like corn or lettuce. But some regenerative agriculture advocates are asking whether farmers also should be paid for what they put back in. By embracing practices like planting soil-building cover crops, spreading compost, and reducing tillage, farmers can gradually build up the amount of carbon in their land. More carbon underground means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thus mitigating the impact of climate change.