Senate Ag to mark up Growing Climate Solutions Act Thursday
At a virtual news conference today, April 20, reintroducing the Growing Climate Solutions Act, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the committee will mark up the bill on Thursday in conjunction with a confirmation hearing on President Biden’s nomination of Jewel Bronaugh to be agriculture deputy secretary.
Stabenow noted that Thursday is Earth Day, an annual event since 1970 to demonstrate support for environmental protection.
The markup will be held at 9:30 a.m. in Room 301 of the Russell Senate Office Building. Senate office buildings are not open to the public, but the markup will be live-streamed on the Senate Agriculture Committee website.
This bill, which is a variation on a bill introduced last year, creates a structure at the Agriculture Department “to help farmers and foresters scale up climate-smart practices and tap into new economic opportunities through voluntary carbon markets,” Stabenow said in a news release.
The difference between last year’s bill and this year’s is a change in the program’s advisory committee so that farmers and ranchers will make up a majority of members, and the inclusion of $4 million in start-up funds, Stabenow said.
Stabenow, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., all noted that Senate Agriculture ranking member John Boozman, R-Ark., has joined as a co-sponsor of the bill and that 17 Democrats and 17 Republicans are co-sponsors.
With more than one-third of the Senate as co-sponsors, prospects for floor action are good, Stabenow said. But when asked whether the sponsors want the bill included in a broader infrastructure bill, Stabenow said that the sponsors would offer it as a stand-alone measure or attach it to any vehicle going through the Senate.
Besides Braun, Stabenow and Whitehouse, the other original co-sponsor is Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Other co-sponsors in addition to Boozman are Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Mitt Romney, R-Utah; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Bill Cassidy, R-La.; Tina Smith, D-Minn.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Angus King, I-Maine; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; John Thune, R-S.D.; Todd Young, R-Ind.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Bill Cassidy, R-La.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; Ron Wyden, R-Ore.; Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M.; Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss.; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.; and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.
House Republicans last week introduced five climate bills which House Agriculture Committee ranking member Glenn “GT” Thompson described as an alternative to the Growing Climate Solutions Act. But Braun said today that at least some of those bills could be part of a final agricultural climate bill.
Stabenow also noted that Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Don Bacon, R-Neb., intend to reintroduce their version of the Growing Climate Solutions Act.
“Addressing the climate crisis is one of the most urgent challenges we face, and our farmers and foresters are an important part of the solution,” said Stabenow. “The bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act is a win-win for farmers, our economy and for our environment. Our bill is a perfect example of how we can work across the aisle and find common ground to address a critical issue affecting all of us and our future.”
“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 by breaking down barriers for farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices,” said Braun.
“I appreciate the collaborative approach Chairwoman Stabenow and Sen. Braun took in developing this bill. As a result of their hard work and their openness to input, the Growing Climate Solutions Act is poised to help our farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners benefit from becoming a greater part of our climate solution. American agriculture has already made great strides in reducing its environmental footprint while growing even more efficient. The Growing Climate Solutions Act will help empower farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners to build on that progress in a manner that rewards them for their efforts,” said Boozman.
In explaining the bill, Braun said, “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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