Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021 Passes in Senate
The Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021 has passed in the United States Senate and is now moving to the House. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) and co-sponsored by over 50 members of the Senate. S.1251 would authorize the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a voluntary Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program to help reduce entry barriers into voluntary environmental credit markets for farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners.
“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 in a press release. “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.”
The bill gained support from over 175 agriculture, food, forestry, and conservation organizations and companies, including the American Society of Animal Science. “We appreciate lawmakers putting aside their differences to work on bipartisan solutions to the challenges facing farmers and ranchers,” said American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall. “The Growing Climate Solutions Act acknowledges the potential of climate-smart farming while ensuring farmers would be respected as partners who can build on our strong foundation of environmental stewardship.” Read the list of supporters here.
Some issues that farmers experience that prevent participation in the carbon credit markets include access to reliable information about markets and access to qualified technical assistance providers and credit protocol verifiers. These barriers also prevent the adoption of practices that would help reduce the cost of carbon credits.
To be eligible to participate in the program, entities must have one of the following criteria: 1. providers of technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, or private forest landowners in carrying out sustainable land use management practices that prevent, reduce, or mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, or sequester carbon, or 2. third-party verifiers that conduct the verification of the processes described in the protocols for voluntary environmental credit markets.
The USDA will be required to publish a list of protocols and qualifications for eligible entities, information describing how entities may self-certify under the program, information describing how entities may obtain the expertise to meet the protocols and qualifications, and instructions and suggestions to assist farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners in facilitating the development of agriculture or forestry credits and accessing voluntary environmental credit markets. Additionally, the USDA must also create an advisory council to report findings to congress.
“This important legislation will enable USDA to informally endorse technical service providers that help farmers implement stewardship practices that can generate carbon and other environmental credits,” said National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern.