A bill that, if passed, would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority to lay the groundwork and set standards for a “carbon farming” market was introduced in Congress April 20. The U.S. Senate Ag Committee planned to take up the Growing Climate Solutions Act April 22 during a committee hearing to coincide with Earth Day.

The bill was originally introduced last June but has since been refined and reworked after input from Republicans. Its title says its purpose is “to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a program to reduce barriers to entry for farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners in certain private markets, and for other purposes.”

The bill now has a broad list of 30 bipartisan sponsors including key members of important ag committees and has garnered support from more than 60 ag and environmental groups. Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said he supports the bill, saying, “This bill empowers USDA to provide information about carbon market options, and develops a certification program to verify the legitimacy, in somewhat of a referee type-style.”

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture praised the bill. “When governments invest in farmers, our communities and environment thrive. State department of agriculture leaders understand the central role agriculture serves in building climate resiliency and preserving our shared natural resources. NASDA is proud to support the Growing Climate Solutions Act, as it acknowledges and invests producers’ contribution to environmental sustainability and unites the industry around climate goals,” NASDA CEO Barb Glenn said. In 2019, NASDA members unanimously acknowledged the necessity of adapting to a changing climate to protect our nation’s natural resources and build a more resilient food system.

Heather Reams, executive director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, said, "When our farmers, ranchers, and foresters go the extra mile to help reduce America's carbon footprint, they should be rewarded, not penalized. The Growing Climate Solutions Act is exciting because it would allow valuable carbon credits to be harvested along with any crops farmed using climate-friendly practices. By normalizing how those credits can be sold on voluntary carbon credit markets, the GCSA also makes it easy for farms of all shapes and sizes to connect with and sell these credits to the scores of American companies and utilities that have committed to going carbon neutral but can't do it alone.” The CRES commented, “GCSA is a free-market win for agriculture producers, businesses, and the climate.”

David Murray can be reached at journal@hpj.com.

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