WASHINGTON, D.C. — Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources, and a bipartisan group of his colleagues reintroduced the Growing Climate Solutions Act. This legislation will 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 broad, bipartisan support from over 60 leading agricultural and environmental organizations.
Today, the U.S. Senate Committee Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry approved the Growing Climate Solutions Act by a voice vote, sending the bill to the Senate floor.
“Time and again I hear from farmers across Colorado concerned that climate change is going to make it more difficult for them to pass down their operations to the next generation,” said Bennet. “We must take steps to tackle the climate challenge, in part by ensuring that farmers, ranchers, and foresters have the opportunity to be a part of the solution. The Growing Climate Solutions Act is an important step toward the goal. I’m glad we were able to move the bill quickly through our Committee, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this bill across the finish line.”
“As agriculture tries to keep up with increasing demands and regulations on the industry, it is good to see bipartisan legislation that recognizes farmers and ranchers as stewards who work to protect the land for future generations. The Growing Climate Solutions Act provides a way for farmers to benefit from the contributions agriculture makes in sustainability and climate smart practices as well as affirms good science and increases clarity. Thank you to the sponsors and cosponsors for their bipartisan work,” said Carlyle Currier, President of Colorado Farm Bureau.
“Agricultural producers on our western landscapes have the ability to positively impact great swaths of land and improve water holding capacity to reduce the risk of extreme weather through climate-smart agriculture. Rocky Mountain Farmers Union believes that the Growing Climate Solutions Act will connect family farmers and ranchers to critical resources and technical assistance to engage in emerging carbon and ecosystem service markets. This is a way forward to both prevent, mitigate and sequester greenhouse gases and to give family-based agriculture an active role in creating a healthier future for us all,” said Dr. Dale McCall, President of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.
“The Growing Climate Solutions Act is the first major piece of bipartisan legislation to help ensure farmers, ranchers and foresters benefit from reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and building climate resilience. Agriculture has a great opportunity to measurably contribute to climate solutions, from cutting emissions of nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide, to storing carbon. EDF commends the bill’s co-sponsors for seeing this potential and paving the way for farmers to be part of the solution,” said Elizabeth Gore, Senior Vice President of Political Affairs at Environmental Defense Fund.
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.
Bennet is a leader in the Senate on climate-smart agriculture and forestry. He helped to draft the 2018 Farm Bill, which put a greater emphasis on soil health and carbon sequestration. He has continued to develop forward-looking measures to combat the growing threat of climate change and build resilience. He recently introduced the Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act to invest $60 billion in our forests and watersheds. He also joined the REPLANT Act to help the U.S. Forest Service plant 1.2 billion trees on national forests and create nearly 49,000 jobs over the next ten years. Last Congress, Bennet introduced legislation to establish the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Terra, a new research agency to invest in early stage research on innovative agricultural technologies that enhance environmental sustainability, export competitiveness, and crop resilience and released a discussion draft of legislation to establish a new tax credit for farmers and ranchers, state and local governments, and tribes to sequester carbon in agriculture, forestry, rangelands, and wetlands.
Last year, Bennet convened a Western Climate Resilience Roundtable to develop a collaborative, consensus-driven set of priorities for Western climate resilience. In February, Bennet announced a framework of Western climate resilience priorities that the group identified. This framework will help guide Bennet’s climate priorities in Congress.
In addition to Benent, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), 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.).