Instead, there was no national program to combat climate change, neither cap-and-trade nor any other alternative, after legislation to establish such a program failed to pass the U.S. Congress in 2009. Part of the reason that the climate legislation fell short is that the American Farm Bureau, of which the IFB is a part, pulled its support at the last moment. "We do think cap-and-trade would significantly impact the agriculture industry," particularly in terms of energy costs, explains Mace Thornton, a Farm Bureau spokesperson. The organization, he adds, also has "concerns about agricultural lands being used as a carbon sink and taking it out of food production."
As a result, the plans to expand Miller’s service fell apart almost immediately—and so did the CCX market as a whole, shutting down in 2010. "We were one of the few participants that honored all our commitments," Miller says. "We lost money doing that."
There's more tilling happening these days in the Corn Belt—and more CO2 piling up in the atmosphere. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has rolled out conservation programs to help farmers build up carbon in the soil and has supported more research on soil health, which will provide some climate relief in the absence of a cap-and-trade market for greenhouse gases. "We thought that was the best market-based approach to deal with climate change," says Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union and a North Dakota farmer. "That's clearly not going to happen for some while, if ever."
For Miller's part, when torrential rains of more than six inches came earlier this year, he tilled the slopes to protect the land. "Does that release carbon? Yes it does," Miller acknowledges. Instead of reducing the risk of climate change, farmers will just have to learn how to adapt to it—until given a reason to do otherwise.