Pinpointing Policy: Growing Climate Solutions Act
On April 20, 2021, 40 senators including Sen. Marshall reintroduced the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act (S. 1251). This bill eliminates barriers for farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices they engage in.
On April 22, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry voted to advance the Growing Climate Solutions Act for consideration by the full Senate. The same day, Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Don Bacon introduced their Growing Climate Solutions Act in the House.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall supports the new Growing Climate Solutions Act and he commented, “AFBF 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.”
Agriculture is at the forefront of climate-smart solutions, and many farmers are interested in building upon and being rewarded for their sustainability efforts through voluntary and market-based programs, which this bill would help create. U.S. agriculture contributes around 10 percent in greenhouse gas emissions, and farmers are on track to reduce their already small carbon footprint. This bill creates an opportunity to help them navigate private markets and get credit for their climate-smart agriculture practices.
What is in the bill:
The Growing Climate Solutions Act creates a certification program at USDA to help solve technical barriers to farmers and forest landowner participation in carbon markets. Access to reliable information about carbon markets and qualified technical assistance providers, along with credit protocol verifiers have limited landowner participation and the adoption of practices.
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 private sector individuals who can assist the landowners in implementing the protocols and monetizing 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.
In summary, the Growing Climate Solutions Act:
- Requires assessment of current agriculture carbon markets (240 days after enactment and every four years thereafter).
- Requires findings by the secretary of USDA that the establishment of the program will fulfill purposes of the Act to benefit farmers, etc., before the secretary establishes a program (270 days after enactment).
- Requires the secretary to hold notice and comment rulemaking on the publication of a list of protocols for voluntary environmental credit markets and qualifications for certified technical assistance and verification providers (90 days after establishment of program).
- Allows covered entities to self-certify on a website maintained by the secretary (180 days after establishment of the program).
- The secretary shall publish a list of the technical assistance and verification providers certified (within one year after establishment of the program and quarterly thereafter).
- Requires annual audits of a representative sample of certified entities.
- Authorizes the secretary to revoke the certifications of entities in noncompliance, to make public the names of any entity for which the certification is revoked and to notify any farmers who used the services of those certified entities.
- Establish a 32-member advisory council, 51 percent of which must be farmers, ranchers or private forest landowners (within 90 days after establishment of program).
- Requires a report on the outcomes of the program every two years.
- Prevents disclosure of farmer-specific or confidential business information by USDA.
- Authorizes appropriations of $1 million per year for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026.
The bill has been endorsed by more than 70 organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation. The bill introduced in the 117th Congress provides additional funding for USDA to oversee a carbon market program and brings more farmer and rancher voices to the table in developing the new program. Carbon markets are a voluntary opportunity for farmers and ranchers to sell carbon credits earned by voluntary, sustainable farming practices to companies wanting to offset their carbon footprint. This is a potential opportunity for farmers, but the process can be confusing, costly and not feasible for all farmers.
Policy 240 1:…When considering sustainable agriculture, there is only one constant and that is agriculture is only sustainable when it is profitable.
Policy 240 2: …Sustainable agriculture should be flexible enough to fit America's diverse climates, cropping patterns, land use standards, and regulatory requirements. Regulations should not limit agricultural practices without strong scientific and economic justification. Sustainable agriculture should rely on measurable results and focus on adaptive management for continual improvements rather than a rigid set of practices.
Policy 240 4: We support methods of farming that result in:
4.1. A profit for the farm operator;
4.2. A producer striving to show continuous improvement in his/her environmental performance; and
4.3. An adequate supply of high-quality safe food, feed, fiber and fuel.
Policy 240 6: We support:
6.1. Research aimed at reducing overall inputs needed to sustain a profitable farming operation; and
6.2. Efforts to provide information to farmers on proven means of improving the efficiency of inputs.
Policy 240 7.1: We oppose any attempt to mandate low input methods of farming.
Policy 503 2: We support:
2.1. Science-based, peer-reviewed research to determine the causes and impacts of global climate change;
2.2. A voluntary market-based carbon credit trading system that is not detrimental to other agricultural producers;
2.3. Compensation to farmers for planting crops or adopting farming practices that keep carbon in the soil or plant material
2.8. The inclusion of the agricultural community as a full partner in the development of any policy, legislation or markets
2.13. Scientific research to document the continuous improvement and beneficial impact of agricultural efforts designed to increase climate resilience, improve water quality and soil health, sequester more carbon in the soil and prevent soil erosion
Policy 503 3: We oppose:
3.1. Climate change legislation that establishes mandatory cap-and-trade provisions; 3.2. Climate change legislation that is not fair, affordable or achievable.