Senators introduce carbon market bill
On June 4, Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act, which will break down barriers for ranchers, farmers and foresters interested in participating in voluntary carbon markets so they can be rewarded for implementing climate-smart practices.
According to Braun, Stabenow, Graham and Whitehouse, the Growing Climate Solutions Act will create a certification program to help solve technical entry barriers preventing farmer, rancher and forest landowner participation in carbon credit markets.
“These barriers include access to reliable information about markets and access to qualified technical assistance providers and credit protocol verifiers,” the senators explain. “They have limited both landowner participation and the adoption of practices that help reduce the costs of developing carbon credits.”
In order to break down the barriers, the bill establishes a Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third Party Verifier Certification Program, which will allow USDA 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 practices.
“Through the program, USDA will help connect landowners to the private sector,” state Braun, Stabenow, Graham and Whitehouse. “USDA certification will lower barriers to entry in the credit markets by reducing confusion and improving information for farmers and ranchers looking to implement practices that capture carbon, reduce emissions, improve soil health and make their operations more sustainable.”
The senators note this USDA certification program will ensure these assistance providers have agriculture and forestry expertise, which is lacking in the current marketplace.
Rewarding farmers and ranchers
According to American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall, the bill creates an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to be financially rewarded for voluntary steps toward being more sustainable.
“America’s farmers and ranchers have made tremendous strides in reducing our carbon footprint, with overall greenhouse gas emissions under 10 percent for our industry,” Duvall says. “As we endeavor to do more with less, we are always focused on doing better and working together to protect the natural resources we all enjoy.”
Elizabeth Gore, vice president of political affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund comments, “Farmers are vital partners in stabilizing and increasing resilience to the impacts we can’t avoid. The Growing Climate Solutions Act makes it easier for farmers and ranchers to pull up a seat at the table and be part of the climate solution. It enables new revenue streams that pays farmers and ranchers for adopting climate friendly practices.”
“This will help drive the U.S. toward a 100 percent clean economy and help ensure farms and rural communities thrive in a changing climate,” she concludes.
In addition to the certification program, the bill would also organize an advisory council to keep Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and the USDA updated on developments in the carbon markets.
“The council will be composed of agriculture experts, scientists, conservationists and producers who will be tasked with ensuring the certification program remains relevant, credible and responsive to the needs of farmers, foresters, landowners and carbon market participants, alike,” Braun, Stabenow, Graham and Whitehouse say.
According to the four senators, the bill also calls for a regular report to lawmakers on barriers to carbon market entry, producer challenges, market performance and opportunities for USDA to contribute to the further adoption of voluntary carbon sequestration.
The legislation would also establish a new USDA website to serve as a resource for farmers, ranchers and foresters interested in generating carbon credits.
“The website will explain how individuals can get started and connect them with USDA-certified entities to set up their carbon credit operation and provide more details on the private sector marketplace,” explain Braun, Stabenow, Graham and Whitehouse.
Stabenow concludes, “As a Main Street entrepreneur and conservationist, I know firsthand 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.”
Hannah Bugas is the assistant editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.