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Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies

Emerging Issue: Farm Greenhouse Gas Reporting

Image credit: Getty Images
Date Posted: April 14, 2023

On-farm greenhouse gas data and modeling has become a hot topic in recent years. The main greenhouse gas emissions likely to be reported from farms are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. A farm may also report on its carbon dioxide sinks, meaning the carbon sequestered in the soil from use of practices like cover crops and no-till. This data comes from a wide variety of activities on farms, from cow burps to nitrogen management and is often difficult to accurately measure or model on individual farms. 

There may be a variety of situations where farms may be asked to submit data related to their greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration: participation in a voluntary carbon credit program, a food company you work with may request the information to track progress on their environmental goals, or last year the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed mandated climate disclosures for publicly traded companies. 

However, protecting confidential business information, Personally Identifiable Information (PII), or information that can be used to trace an individual’s identity, is important for farmers’ success. Maintaining data privacy is also necessary to protect farmers from being targeted by activist organizations seeking to justify regulations, lawsuits, or harassment. 

Whether for voluntary or mandatory purposes, there are common themes to consider around reporting on greenhouse gas metrics on farms:

  • Privacy: how is PII and confidential business information protected? Who has access to the data you are reporting? 

  • Cost: it is expensive to collect good data. It is also expensive to develop good models. Who is paying for the data to be collected? 

  • Liability: If the data, whether collected or modelled, is shown to be incorrect, who is liable for that? With the proposed SEC rule, there were concerns about farmers being liable as part of a company’s broader financial disclosure. 

Policy References

AFBF #418 Environmental, Societal and Governance

AFBF #503 Climate Change

AFBF #536 Proprietary Data

Additional Resources

Agriculture and Forestry Offsets in Carbon Markets: Background and Selected Issues

Ag Data Transparent

Overreach of SEC Proposed Climate Rule Could Hurt Agriculture  

Thoughts to Consider

What are the opportunities or threats related to greenhouse gas reporting for farms?

How can the private sector collect greenhouse gas data from farms to support their environmental goals, while also protecting farmers’ data?

Are there additional legal protections needed to protect farm PII and confidential business information?

What role should Farm Bureau have in this conversation?

Tess Van Gorder

Tess Van Gorder

Conservation & Regulatory Relations Specialist
517-323-6711 [email protected]