Sequestering carbon on agricultural land: Social cost and impacts on timber markets

Richard M. Adams, Darius M. Adams, John M. Callaway, Ching-Cheng Chang, Bruce A. Mccarl

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Planting trees to sequester carbon has broad political appeal. However, effects of a major tree planting program on the agricultural sector and on timber markets are unclear. This paper examines social costs of sequestering carbon in tree plantations on U.S. agricultural land and investigates harvesting's effects on timber prices and on private timber producers' welfare. The analysis links a model of the U.S. agricultural sector that includes the land base in major production areas with a model of the U.S. softwood economy. Using current data on planting, maintenance, and harvesting costs for tree plantations and carbon sequestration rates, the models estimate the price and welfare effects of alternative carbon sequestration goals. Results indicate a range of outcomes. Consumers pay higher prices for food as farmers divert land from crops to trees. However, wood products consumers gain from falling timber prices if the trees enter commercial markets. Agricultural producers and landowners gain from higher commodity prices, but private forest owners lose. Large tree planting programs imply that policymakers must compensate private commercial tree planting to prevent farmers from displacing present tree plantations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Economic Policy
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)76-87
Publication statusPublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


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