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AFS 401

A Research Guide for Agricultural & Food Systems 401

Project Description

“Alternative Uses for Palouse CRP Land and Carbon”

Contact:  Bram Schweiger (

The AgWest Capstone group will explore the both the history and current use of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the carbon sequestration industry, and the potential for forestry on the Palouse through research and grower/producer interviews. The goal of this project is the answer the below question:

Is the carbon sequestration market, through forestry, a possible alternative for expiring CRP lands?

The Conservation Reserve Program, “the program”, has constantly evolved since its introduction in the 1950s. The program became popular in the 1985 Farm Bill, when program term lengths were extended. This allowed growers to retire early and minimally maintain agriculture real estate into a natural grassland. Subject to inspection, contracts are typically renewed at expiration. Rates per acre were competitive against production agriculture earnings/acre, while the program protected the grower against volatile commodity pricing. For many families the program did, and still does, function as a retirement pension.

Today, CRP lands in the Palouse are renewed at lower rates, making production agriculture a more attractive option on both owned and leased ag real estate. Production farming and cattle grazing are two common alternatives against expiring CRP lands today.

Explore the history or current practice of the program to build an understanding around CRP rates, implementation, exit of the program, and alternative uses for expiring CRP lands.

The carbon offsets market is a blossoming industry, primarily used by the forest products industry. Though the market is popular and often a topic of discussion in the agriculture and forest products community, there is little understanding around the subject.

Carbon Sequestration Credits must meet the “Criteria for Quality Carbon Dioxide Removal” to be eligible for marketability as a true commodity. There has been few publicly disclosed transactions, which makes the carbon commodity market difficult to benchmark.

On December 27th, 2023, Weyerhaeuser announced an agreement for the sale of 32,000 carbon credits at $29 per credit (buyer not disclosed). Several buyers in the carbon market are companies with little environmental function, who have taken a carbon neutral or negative pledge. For example, on January 16, 2020 Microsoft made a major pledge. “We’re committed to being carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050 remove from the atmosphere an equivalent amount of all the carbon dioxide our company has emitted either directly or by our electricity consumption since we were founded in 1975.”.

Questions for the AgWest Capstone group:

  1. How are CRP rates determined?
  2. Is forestry possible in certain regions of the Palouse? What tree species can grow and where?
  3. How is a carbon offset business licensed into a marketable commodity?
  4. Is a carbon offset business more profitable than CRP rates, conversion to cattle grazing lands, and conversion back into production agriculture lands?
  5. Could a landowner collect CRP payments while concurrently sequestering carbon?


Search Tips & Examples

This project asks a lot of different question. Below are some keywords and search statements that may help you answer these questions.

To learn more about developing keywords and search strings check out this link.

Example of Potential Search: 

Note: The following keywords and search strings were just a quick ideas I came up with. You may come up with better ones within your group.

Search #1

Title: "Conservation Reserve Program"


Any Field: carbon 

Here is what that search looks like in the WSU Libraries' catalog (link)  

Search #2

Any Field: "Conservation Reserve Program"


Any Field: palouse OR "eastern washington" OR "columbia plateau" OR "columbia basin"

Here is what that search looks like in the WSU Libraries' catalog (link) 

Search #3

Title: carbon


Any Field: public* AND disclos*


Any Field: sequest* OR credit*

Here is what that search looks like in the WSU Libraries' catalog (link) 

Find Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed Research

Useful Scholarly Databases: 

Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics) - Arguably the best STEM database.

Washington State University Library Catalog (Search It) - Allows you to  search among many different types of resources and order materials from other institutions if they are not immediately available through WSU. 

Agricola (EBSCO) - A small, agriculture specific, database provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Library.


If you are interested in seeing a full list of agricultural databases available at WSU check out this link.

If you want to see all of the databases available, across disciplines, check out this link.

Find Local (and Historic) Resources

Part of your project will be understanding the historic context of conservation programs, etc.. Below are some resources that will assist.

The WSU/WSC Cooperative Extension Services will provide historic and contemporary agricultural resources pertaining to Washington State. Many of these resources have been digitized but many others are only located within the Owen Science Library.

Note: You can find Extension (and other WSU) research a couple of different ways. Theoretically, there should be overlap between the following databases but in practice it is useful to search them all.

You can search the WSU Libraries' catalog and limit your results to Washington State University and/or Washington State University Cooperative Extension within the "Author" limiter. Here's a picture of how to do that.

Research Exchange is the institutional repository at WSU. It will have a lot of historic resources but also some contemporary research. Here is a 'Title' search for "Conservation Reserve Program".

The WSU Cooperative Extension Service also provides a list of contemporary publications. It may also be useful to look at the University of Idaho's Extension publications.

Finally, you may want to look at the resources within and the HathiTrust repository

Find Industry & Corporate Info

For your project, you may need to examine corporate and industry profiles, trade publications, press releases, laws and court cases. etc.

Below are a few corporate and business databases to get you started. 

Helpful Industry Resources

  • Nexis Uni - Provides information on U.S. and international private and public companies. Info may include: Company description and history, competitors, subsidiaries, size, officers and directors, annual stock price averages, and more. This database also allows you to search sate and federal court cases.
  • Business Source Complete - Allows you to search company and industry information across popular press, trade journals, product reviews, and much more. Also provides information regarding company and industry profiles. 

For more in-depth information regarding corporate research, take a look at the WSU Libraries Company Research Library Guide. 

Find Newspapers & Trade Publications

Newspaper and Trade Publications

  • Newspaper Source - This database provides selected full text coverage for 245 newspapers, newswires and other sources.
  • Nexis Uni - An excellent source for searching for information within state/regional/US newspapers (including the New York Times) as well as English-language foreign newspapers and foreign language newspapers. 
  • Washington State newspaper resources (NewsBank/Readex) - Includes many Washington State newspapers including the Seattle Times and the Moscow Pullman Daily News.

For more info, see the WSU Libraries News and Newspaper Research Guide

Quick Reading List

Duffin, A. P. (2004). Remaking the Palouse: Farming, Capitalism, and Environmental Change, 1825-1914. Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 95(4), 194–204Link to article at WSU Libraries.

Duffin, A. P. (2007). Plowed under : Agriculture and environment in the Palouse (eBook). University of Washington Press. Link to eBook at WSU Libraries.

Jones, J. (2015, April 11). Nearby history: Tall trees on Palouse raised nearby economies to new heights. Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Link to article

Purakayastha, T. J., Huggins, D. R., & Smith, J. L. (2008). Carbon sequestration in native prairie, perennial grass, no-till, and cultivated Palouse silt loam. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 72(2), 534–540. Link to article at WSU Libraries.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2020). The Conservation Reserve Program: A 35 year history. Link to report (PDF).


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