U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and a bipartisan group of her Senate colleagues reintroduced the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which passed the Senate Committee Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and now heads to the Senate floor.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act, which has broad bipartisan support from over 60 leading agricultural and environmental organizations, will break down barriers for farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices.
“Wisconsin farmers know that climate change is a real, immediate and growing threat to our economy. They also understand that the longer we fail to act, the more costly the climate crisis will be,” said Senator Baldwin, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration. “The climate crisis is unsustainable for our agriculture economy. That is why we need to support the innovative practices that farmers are already doing to be part of the solution and generate new economic growth for rural communities. Our agricultural economy has a lot to lose if we don’t act on climate change and that is why we need to take bold action now.”
The Growing Climate Solutions Act creates a certification program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help solve technical entry barriers that prevent farmer and forest landowners from participating in carbon credit markets. These issues – including access to reliable information about markets and access to qualified technical assistance providers and credit protocol verifiers – have limited both landowner participation and the adoption of practices that help reduce the costs of developing carbon credits.
To address this, the Growing Climate Solutions Act 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. The USDA certification program will ensure that these technical assistance providers have agriculture and forestry expertise, which is lacking in the current marketplace. 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 actors 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. The USDA certification lowers barriers to entry in the credit markets by reducing confusion and improving information for farmers looking to implement practices that capture carbon, reduce emissions, improve soil health, and make operations more sustainable.
Today, many third-party groups are developing protocols and testing methods to calculate emissions reduction and sequestration in agriculture and forestry. The landscape is evolving rapidly. The Growing Climate Solutions Act recognizes this fact and provides the Secretary with a robust advisory council composed of agriculture experts, scientists, producers, and 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.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act is supported by U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mike Braun (R-IN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John Boozman (R-AR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Angus King (I-ME), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John Thune (R-SD), Todd Young (R-IN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ron Wyden (R-OR), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).
An online version of this release is available here.