House Ag holds hearing on voluntary carbon markets

The House Agriculture Committee last week held a hearing on voluntary carbon markets that highlighted farmers’ and environmentalists’ hopes for the benefits of those markets, but also the difficulties in establishing them.

“These markets have the potential to create new economic opportunities while also tackling the greatest challenge of our time — climate change,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., said in an opening statement.

“However, given the significant variation that exists in today’s markets, serious questions remain over the quality of some of the carbon credits that are currently generated,” Scott said. “Likewise, many questions remain about producer participation in markets — including how to fairly compensate producers, the ability of small farms to participate, and how to reward existing stewardship, among others.”

In his opening statement, Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., the ranking member on the committee, repeated his previous statements critical of the Senate-passed Growing Climate Solutions Act.

Thompson said that “with the Senate’s insistence on instituting what is essentially a new regulatory regime through the Growing Climate Solutions Act, that body is forcing the House to evaluate the efficacy of these markets now. Without government intervention, the marketplace could answer questions of permanence, science, or fairness of the markets.”

“If we provide market information through a USDA website, as the Growing Climate Solutions Act requires, the government becomes a certifier of middlemen. We need to be more diligent in our oversight of these markets and its players now before we legislate in this space.”

But Callie Eideberg, director of government relations at the Environmental Defense Fund, said, “If USDA does not get involved, if we don’t have a referee on the field, someone providing consistent measures farmers are probably going to get the short end of the stick.”

Under questioning from Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., David Milligan, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, said that while voluntary carbon markets are “of interest” to wheat growers, he does not understand carbon credits or how they are valued. Milligan said standards have to be set and priorities established.


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