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Growing Climate Solutions Act set to be introduced in US Senate

United States Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week, U.S. Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Lindsey Graham, R-S.D., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said they would introduce the Growing Climate Solutions Act to break down barriers for farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices.

The bill has the support of the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, Environmental Defense Fund, McDonald’s, Microsoft, and over 40 farm groups, environmental organizations, and Fortune 500 companies.

“As a Main Street Entrepreneur and conservationist, I know firsthand that 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,” said Sen. Braun.

“While farms and forests have been uniquely impacted by the climate crisis, they can also be an important part of the solution. Our bipartisan bill is a win-win for farmers, our economy and our environment by providing new economic opportunities to store carbon while also addressing the climate crisis,” said Sen. Stabenow.

“As Americans we have the ability to come up with climate solutions that can benefit our economy and our way of life,” said Sen. Graham. “The United States has long been a leader in innovation. This legislation is an opportunity to put our knowledge and can-do spirit to work to promote business opportunities for the agriculture industry while promoting the protection of our environment.”

“Make no mistake, this is a breakthrough, and it signals a broader move coming on climate in this country,” said Sen. Whitehouse. “America can and should lead the world to safety, for all our citizens, for our atmosphere and oceans, and for generations to come.”

“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. 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. We are grateful to Senators Braun and Stabenow for consulting us on their efforts to bring clarity and validity to a voluntary, market-based carbon-credit system and provide a USDA-led review to inspire confidence as we enter the new carbon marketplace,” said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall.

“Corn farmers have been leaders in adopting farming practices to improve the quality of soil, water, and air around our farms and are pleased to endorse the Growing Climate Solutions Act. This bipartisan effort recognizes agriculture’s role in mitigating the impact of climate change and promotes voluntary, agriculture-friendly ideas into the climate discussion. NCGA thanks the senators for their leadership and looks forward to working together to implement policy that benefits both the environment and farmers’ bottom line,” said Kevin Ross, president, National Corn Growers Association.

“Farmers are vital partners in stabilizing the climate and increasing resilience to the impacts we can’t avoid. The Growing Climate Solutions Act makes it easier for farmers to pull up a seat at the table and be part of the climate solution. It enables new revenue streams that pay farmers for adopting climate-friendly practices. Those changes will help drive the U.S. toward a 100% clean economy and help ensure farms and rural communities thrive in a changing climate,” said Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president, Political Affairs, Environmental Defense Fund.

“The Growing Climate Solutions Act would provide the farmers and ranchers McDonald’s depends on with a clearer pathway for meaningful participation in carbon credit markets. As we work with our suppliers to achieve our climate goals, carbon markets will play an important role incentivizing, recognizing and rewarding agriculture producers for the significant positive impacts they can quantifiably deliver. We commend Sens. Braun and Stabenow for their leadership and introduction of this important legislation,” said Marion Gross, McDonald’s chief supply chain officer, North America.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act creates a certification program at USDA to help solve technical entry barriers that prevent farmer and forest landowner participation 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 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. The USDA certification program will ensure that these 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. ❖



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