Climate, carbon credits and layers; bad and good news

May 6, 2021

Many egg producers hearing talk about farmers being paid big money for carbon credits want to find a way to sell emissions reductions in these markets. Carbon credits are generated by reducing or mitigating their “emissions” of greenhouse gases (GHG).

The bad news

Most producers manage hens’ manure in ways that do not produce methane, a potent GHG. The ammonia emitted from layer manure is not a GHG. Layer operations only generate GHG if manure is treated with an anaerobic lagoon system.

US EPA’s annual sector-by-sector inventory of GHG emissions confirms this fact. EPA reports that all of agriculture’s emissions of GHGs represents about 10 percent of the total for the U.S.  Animal agriculture’s methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from animals’ guts as well as stored and field applied manure account for about 4 percent of the total. EPA does not break out “poultry” emissions by species (broiler, turkey, layers, etc.), but “poultry” manure emissions represent only about 0.6 percent of the U.S. total.  A rough estimate of the share of total attributable to layer manure management might be in the 0.1 to 0.2 percent range.

The good news

The good news is that layers’ lack of emissions available to generate carbon credits for sale means no one is demanding that US EPA regulate layer GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA).  Unfortunately, such demands are being made for dairy and swine producers.  Environmentalists submitted a petition last month calling on EPA to use CAA permits to control dairy and swine methane emissions because these operations “generate massive amounts of manure” and should qualify them as “super-emitters” of methane, accounting for “1.3 percent of total US” emissions.

These, and related matters involving the ammonia from layer manure, will be discussed at UEP’s Legislative Meetings during the Environment Committee Briefing on May 11 at 2:00 pm ET.