The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that ACES would lead to very modest costs for the agricultural sector in the short term, but potentially significant net benefits over the medium to long term from the growing market for agricultural “offsets.” Instead of directly reducing their own emissions, industries subject to a cap on global warming emissions would pay farmers and ranchers to increase the amount of carbon stored in soils and vegetation, reduce methane emissions from animal waste, or reduce nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer use. These payments would equal about $1 billion per year from 2015 to 2020, and $15–$20 billion per year from 2040 to 2050.
Farmers can also make money by installing wind turbines, solar panels, and other clean energy technologies on their land and buildings. By leasing land for one utility-scale wind turbine, for instance, a farmer could earn $3,000 a year. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that, over the next two decades, U.S. farmers and rural landowners could earn $1.2 billion in new income through such steps.
By addressing global warming, we can also help farmers avoid the most severe consequences of climate change. Under an unchecked-emissions scenario, many farmers could face more frequent heavy rains and flooding in the spring, which delay planting; expanded ranges of agricultural pests; and rising temperatures, which stress plants and livestock and reduce yields. Each of these effects can significantly raise costs. And while agriculture in some parts of the country could benefit from warmer temperatures in the short run, eventually most areas would see costs. Some degree of adaptation may be possible—such as by changing crop types, planting dates, and irrigation and fertilizer practices; investing in livestock cooling systems; and taking advantage of crop insurance programs—but these adaptations, too, will likely come at considerable cost.