This week incoming Senate Agriculture Chairperson Stabenow stated in Agri-Pulse that one of her priorities would be an Agricultural Carbon Market. Jim Callan provided the following information regarding that initiative:
Last June, Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mike Braun (R-IN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the “Growing Climate Solutions Act,” which would “break down barriers for farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices.” It garnered wide bipartisan support and was backed by many ag and food groups. It essentially creates a carbon credit market certified by USDA and that is provided to producers and landowners. The bill has the support of the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, Environmental Defense Fund, McDonald’s, Microsoft, and over 50 farm groups, environmental organizations, and Fortune 500 companies [click here for the full list]. It also is attached. I listened to the Senate Ag Committee hearing on the legislation.
Something to keep our eyes on in 2021 and beyond as it would need to be reintroduced in the new Congress. I am sure this is what Stabenow was referring to in this morning’s Agri-Pulse article that you mentioned. Here is a summary from a news release announcing the bill’s introduction in 2020:
- 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, 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.