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Climate-smart legislation on tap in Senate

Climate-smart legislation on tap in Senate

Updated: Growing Climate Solutions Act helps landowners participate in carbon credit markets.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act, introduced today in the Senate, is generating a lot of buzz.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Mike Braun, R-Indiana; Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan; Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, creates a certification program at USDA to help solve technical entry barriers to farmer and forest landowner participation in carbon credit markets.

What's in the bill?

The bill establishes a Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program through which USDA will be able to provide transparency, legitimacy, and informal endorsement of third-party verifiers and technical service providers that help private landowners generate carbon credits through a variety of agriculture and forestry related practices.

As part of the program, USDA will administer a new website, which will serve as a “one stop shop” of information and resources for producers and foresters who are interested in participating in carbon markets.

Through the program, USDA will help connect landowners to people in the private sector who can assist them in implementing the protocols and earning income from the climate value of their sustainable practices. Third party entities, certified under the program, will be able to claim the status of a “USDA Certified” technical assistance provider or verifier.

Many third-party groups are developing protocols and testing methods to calculate emissions reduction and sequestration in agriculture and forestry. The Growing Climate Solutions Act provides the secretary with an advisory council composed of agriculture experts, scientists, producers among others. The advisory council shall advise the secretary and ensure that the certification program remains relevant, credible, and responsive to the needs of farmers, forest landowners, and carbon market participants alike.

Finally, the bill instructs USDA to produce a report to Congress to advise about the further development of this policy area including: barriers to market entry, challenges raised by farmers and forest landowners, market performance, and suggestions on where USDA can make a positive contribution to the further adoption of voluntary carbon sequestration practices in agriculture and forestry.

What do the Senate sponsors have to say about the legislation?

“While farms and forests have been uniquely impacted by the climate crisis, they can also be an important part of the solution," said Stabenow, ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee. "Our bipartisan bill is a win-win for farmers, our economy and our environment by providing new economic opportunities to store carbon while also addressing the climate crisis."

“As a Main Street entrepreneur and conservationist, I know firsthand that if we want to address our changing climate then we need to facilitate real solutions that our farmers, environmentalists and industry can all support, which this bill accomplishes,” Braun said.

“This legislation is an opportunity to put our knowledge and can-do spirit to work to promote business opportunities for the agriculture industry while promoting the protection of our environment," Graham said.

“Make no mistake, this is a breakthrough, and it signals a broader move coming on climate in this country,” Whitehouse said. 

Who is supporting the bill?

The bill has the support of more than 40 farm groups, environmental organizations and Fortune 500 companies.

What are supporters saying about the legislation?

“It (The Growing Climate Solutions Act) enables new revenue streams that pay farmers for adopting climate-friendly practices," said Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president, political affairs, Environmental Defense Fund. "Those changes will help drive the U.S. toward a 100% clean economy and help ensure farms and rural communities thrive in a changing climate."

"This bipartisan effort recognizes agriculture’s role in mitigating the impact of climate change and promotes voluntary, agriculture-friendly ideas into the climate discussion,” said Kevin Ross, president, National Corn Growers Association.

“As we work with our suppliers to achieve our climate goals, carbon markets will play an important role incentivizing, recognizing and rewarding agriculture producers for the significant positive impacts they can quantifiably deliver,” said Marion Gross, McDonald’s chief supply chain officer, North America.

"The Growing Climate Solutions Act is an important step toward strong and comprehensive climate policy that both provides farmers of all sizes with the resources they need to mitigate and adapt to climate change as well as recognizes the vital public good that comes from those efforts,” said National Farmers Union President Rob Larew.

“American agriculture, from farmers and ranchers to corn wet mill operators, plays an important role in addressing these (climate) challenges head on, and this proposal seeks to reward the strides that have and will continue to be made toward greater sustainability across the food and agriculture value chain,” said John Bode, president and CEO of Corn Refiners Association.

“Dairy farmers are environmental stewards who value proactive approaches to sustainability, and this legislation will provide a welcome boost to their efforts," said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.

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