The U.S. Capitol

The U.S. Capitol

Bipartisan legislation introduced June 4 in the U.S. Senate takes aim at the barriers that have limited the ability of farmers and ranchers to generate and sell carbon credits.

Farmers and ranchers are uniquely positioned to drive climate solutions and reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint. But participation in carbon markets has been hindered by lack of access to qualified technical assistance providers and verifiers.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act would establish a certification program at USDA for technical assistance providers and third-party verifiers. It also provides for a new USDA website that will serve as a “one stop shop” of information and resources for agricultural producers interested in participating in carbon markets.

It was introduced by Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

The bill is “intended to improve farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to participate in private, voluntary carbon markets,” said Debbie Reed, executive director of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, which is developing a market for carbon and water credits for the agriculture sector.

The proposed USDA program would certify external technical advisers and verifiers who understand agriculture, and USDA will post a list of them on the website, she said.

Carbon markets are complicated, and there haven’t been enough technical assistance providers and verifiers who understand agriculture. It can be a full-time job for farmers and ranchers to figure out how to find the right technical assistance or verifier, she said.

The USDA program would fill a need and provide the missing link in farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to participate in existing carbon markets, she said.

Demand for carbon offsets has grown significantly. But the process is confusing and cumbersome, limiting farmers’, ranchers’ and foresters’ participation, American Farm Bureau Federation officials said.

“America’s farmers and ranchers have made tremendous strides in reducing our carbon footprint, with overall greenhouse gas emissions under 10% for our industry,” Zippy Duvall, AFBF president, said in a press release.

The bill creates an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to be financially rewarded for the voluntary, sustainable steps they’re taking, he said.

In addition to the certification program, the bill also calls for an advisory committee to provide guidance on how Congress and USDA can reduce barriers to entry into carbon markets.

The bill will provide certainty for farmers as they look to participate in carbon markets, National Farmers Union officials said.

“American family farmers and ranchers are ready to help fight climate change, but meaningful and sustainable changes are not inexpensive or easy to implement,” Rob Larew, NFU president, said in a press release.

“Carbon credit exchanges can provide them with a market-based system to finance those improvements,” he said.

The bill is an important step toward strong and comprehensive climate policy that provides farmers with the resources they need to mitigate and adapt to climate change and recognizes the public good that comes from those efforts, he said.

The bill has the support of more than 40 farm groups, environmental organizations and Fortune 500 companies.

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