New carbon legislation will help farmers

Published 7:34 pm Sunday, May 16, 2021

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Legislation that would help farmers participate in carbon markets has been reintroduced to the U.S. Senate for consideration after clearing the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on April 22.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act would establish a certification program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to eliminate barriers that have limited farmers’ involvement in carbon credit markets. The bill previously was introduced in 2020.

The Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program would address previous issues relating to carbon markets, including a lack of reliable market information and access to qualified technical assistance providers and credit verifiers.

The certification program would ensure third-party assistance providers and credit verification services have agricultural expertise. It also would connect farmers with groups that would assist in monetizing sustainable land management practices.

Additionally, USDA would create a website to provide information for farmers interested in participating in carbon markets.

The bill has received bipartisan support from 43 senators and more than 70 agricultural and environmental organizations.

“American Farm Bureau Federation welcomes the introduction of the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which builds on the strong foundation of environmental stewardship in American agriculture by providing more clarity and guidance for farmers and ranchers as they explore or expand participation in carbon markets,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said.  “This bill is evidence lawmakers can come together in a bipartisan manner to find solutions to environmental challenges while respecting the role of farmers and ranchers as they feed families around the globe.”

Duvall commended the efforts of Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Mike Braun, R-Ind., for working with Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., to introduce an improved version of the bill.

The revised bill would require USDA to ensure assistance providers and credit verifiers provide “realistic estimates of costs and revenues” to farmers for activities relating to carbon trading. 

The amended legislation also would give farmers, ranchers and private forest owners majority control over the USDA advisory committee that would oversee and shape certification requirements.

Ben Rowe, national affairs coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, noted the bill would benefit farmers who have long employed carbon sequestration practices such as no-till farming, reforestation and precision agriculture.

“Farmers already are implementing a great deal of practices that benefit the environment,” he said. “The Growing Climate Solutions Act will help those farmers receive credits and participate in carbon markets, providing a new revenue stream and incentive for expanding practices.”