Firebolt Ag Helps Kansas Farmers Score with Crops and Carbon

“ the current market, this can be just enough to keep a lot of farmers in the black.”

NORTON, Kan. (AgPR) April 25, 2024 - Big companies paying farmers for their carbon credits to make themselves look green and good? With commodity prices headed south, Josh McClain says he's motivated to tap into that new income source - for his family as well as the farmers he serves.

McClain and his family farm in north central Kansas near the town of Norton. They also operate an independent farm-based business - Firebolt Ag, LLC - providing fertilizer, crop protection, custom application and grain merchandising - and now a local carbon market.

"I started farming when I was 17," McClain remembers. "We started with 300 acres. Now I farm just under 12,000 acres with my wife and my kids. It's mostly corn, a little bit of soybeans and a little bit of wheat." Four years ago, McClain and his family were disappointed in the level of service they were getting from ag retailers, so they started Firebolt Ag. "We certainly didn't know everything," he laughs, "but we knew how we wanted to be treated as customers, so we thought we could serve other farmers, too." Since that time, Firebolt Ag has grown to an 80-mile service radius and nearly 150,000 acres.

McClain is upfront about how strange the carbon market may seem to most farmers. He is a bit of a skeptic himself. But big companies want to sell their consumer goods as carbon neutral to please the trendy buyer, and to do that, they must buy carbon credits to offset their own CO2 emissions.

"All plants naturally sequester carbon. That's how Mother Nature intended it, so those of us who grow crops for a living are part of the solution," says McClain. "Farmers can get paid for the work they already do. For many farmers, it seems kind of strange, but in the current market, this can be just enough to keep a lot of farmers in the black." CLICK TO WATCH THE FIREBOLT AG STORY.

It may be a strange game, but it's becoming a big one. In 2022, the global carbon credit market traded value was US $978.56 billion, according to research conducted by Daedal Research, a company based in India. They see the market reaching US $2.68 trillion by 2028, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.23% during the forecast period of 2023-2028. McClain says these kinds of numbers caused him to study the carbon market to find the path forward for his own farm and family. Then he realized he could use that knowledge to benefit the neighbors he was already serving through Firebolt Ag.

"Think about it as just another commodity," suggests McClain. "You are selling your stored carbon and you get 75 percent of the value of what's sold from your acres." For farmers, the process starts with a four-year history of yield and practices, with the information fed into a calculator to determine a carbon sequestration base. Everything achieved above the base is what you sell. Given the great variability of farms and fields, McClain wants to be careful in setting expectations, but says in his part of Kansas, .3 to .6 tons of carbon per acre seems a reasonable estimate. With carbon prices fluctuating at $60 to $80/A., that tallies anywhere from $18 to $48 per acre, with $13.50 to $36 per acre coming to the grower.

Two years ago, McClain became a dealer for Meristem Crop Performance, after he saw the products working well on his own farm. Now he sees Meristem's products going hand in hand with sequestering carbon and bringing farmers a win-win: improved ROI and a better carbon score. "Reducing tillage is a quick way to qualify every acre, and it pays out extremely well in the carbon industry," says McClain. "So, if a farmer uses EXCAVATOR® and cuts out a tillage pass, that offsets the cost of that product plus amps up their bottom line." He says another issue is nitrogen efficiency and timing.

"Using N-GEAR® Dual Action is another way to enhance your carbon scores. It's a nitrogen stabilizer that really works well in avoiding nitrogen loss," he says. "Even without the added incentive a carbon payment brings, these are positive changes that will improve crops and boost ROI." And when it comes to carbon, it can tally up nicely.

"With Meristem, we have a portfolio enabled by BIO-CAPSULE™ and MICROBILIZE™ technologies, which are critical components of keeping biologicals alive," says Mitch Eviston, Meristem Founder and CEO. "When you can keep biologicals alive across an entire system approach, it really helps guys like Josh execute his business concept and deliver on the carbon vision."

EXCAVATOR®, REVLINE® HOPPER THROTTLE™, N-GEAR® Dual Action, and UPSHIFT® C represent the most comprehensive portfolio available to any farmer wanting to engage in regenerative agriculture, says Eviston,"whether in carbon credits or insets, NRCS programs, climate-smart energy grants or Inflation Reduction Act's 457 credits potentially through their ethanol production partners.

"More carbon comes from better plant health and higher yields," McClain says. "Those are the two biggest things that generate carbon because the healthier the plant, the more carbon it puts down and the computer model will pick that up. So, as you're increasing your yields and plant health, you are also increasing your carbon score. We aren't changing much of anything that Mother Nature does," smiles McClain, "we are just taking advantage of our role in crop production and the need for carbon."

"You can see that it's becoming the next big thing," says Jeff Jarvis, who farms in Phillips County, Kansas with his father, Rick. "Carbon is on peoples' minds, so it seems like it's here to stay. Josh makes it easy. The benefit is we don't have to make big changes to what we're doing already, and we still see some monetary benefit." He's been a Firebolt Ag customer for four years now and says he's thankful for Josh's knowledge and service-orientation. "I don't have any fear that they are not going to do what they say they'll do," he says. McClain says he knows Jarvis and other customers would rather just farm than fuss with carbon, because he felt that way, too.

"So, in the winter of 2022, we had a meeting with Indigo Ag," McClain remembers. "They wanted us in their deal, and we were able to change some things in their agreement to get us involved." The carbon credit industry Indigo represents, says McClain, is a way for farmers to generate revenue by selling to manufacturers the tons of carbon their farms sequester.

McClain says he was motivated to get involved when he saw carbon credit companies taking advantage of the farmer. "I just thought we could do it a different way. We managed to work the deal so that most of the money goes to the farmer instead of somebody else's pocket." Lower commodity prices have made the effort more important, he says, because it's revenue without additional expense.

It has worked well for Blake Kirchoff, another Firebolt Ag customer. "Josh has made it a lot simpler for us," he says. "Just him explaining it and knowing a lot more about it made the whole thing work. It seems like a no brainer to do it, really. They're paying you for these practices that you've already been doing."

Meristem Crop Performance Group, LLC ( is one of the fastest-growing crop input companies in America. Meristem sources, formulates, licenses, and delivers high-quality crop inputs to farmers at a price point empowering them to gain real productivity by increasing yields and lowering their per unit production cost. Meristem is building a highly efficient channel to bring crop inputs to market, reducing waste and accelerating access to farm-ready innovations, such as their patented BioCapsule Technology™ and Microbilize Technology™ biological delivery systems. For more information, visit or follow Meristem Crop Performance on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

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