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USDA's Initiative for Carbon Market Access

Published: March 21, 2024 by

Recognizing the pivotal role of farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners in carbon markets, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is set to establish the Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Program. This initiative aims to tackle barriers hindering the participation of ranchers, farmers, and private forest landowners in the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM). Under the Biden-Harris Administration, the USDA is committed to reshaping the country’s agriculture and forestry sectors, prioritizing resilient local and regional production, fair markets, and climate-smart practices.

To that end, the USDA conducted a general assessment of agriculture and forestry’s role in the U.S. carbon market. The assessment identified key obstacles to carbon market access, including market confusion, lack of familiarity with carbon credits/programs (high among family forest owners, where 93.5% are unfamiliar with carbon markets), high transaction costs, and limited access for early adopters. Additionally, the wide range of participation requirements among existing carbon credit programs presents a significant challenge for producers and landowners seeking to take part in the VCM. 

While the USDA’s initiative cannot directly establish carbon credit programs, its primary aim is to alleviate confusion by providing trusted information and resources. By evaluating and listing widely accepted protocols, providing access to information, accrediting technical assistance providers, and identifying third-party verifiers, the program seeks to facilitate market participation and ensure consistency in carbon market programs.

Later this year, the USDA will be soliciting public comments and engagement in the program.  The Climate Trust (TCT) plans to closely monitor and provide input and will apply to be listed as a technical assistance provider.  Facilitating access to the evolving VCM for landowners, including ranchers and private forest owners, is a strategic objective for TCT.


  1. USDA. (2024) Press Release.
  2. USDA. (2023). Report to Congress: A General Assessment of the Role of Agriculture and Forestry in U.S. Carbon Markets.
  3. USDA. (2024). Justification Report: USDA Intent to Establish the Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Program. Retrieved from:
  4. McKinsey & Company. (2022, September 23). Voice of the US farmer in 2022: Innovating through uncertainty.