Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME), members of the Climate Solutions Caucus, joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing the Growing Climate Solutions Act, legislation that would break down barriers to farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices. The bill was led by Senators Mike Braun (R-IN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
“Climate change has serious implications for the livelihoods of many people across our state, including farmers and those employed in the forest products industry,” said Senator Collins. “This legislation would make it easier for the agriculture community to tap into voluntary carbon credit markets by cutting red tape and streamlining the certification process. By providing landowners with additional revenue and reducing harmful carbon emissions, this innovative approach is a win-win for our environment and our economy.”
“If left unaddressed, climate change will drastically impact nearly every aspect of American life – which is why we need to support climate-smart solutions wherever possible,” said Senator King. “Maine’s agriculture and forest products sectors are critical parts of our state’s economy, and they should be encouraged and incentivized to adapt their work in ways that boost the long-term health of both the industries and the planet. This bipartisan legislation is an important step forward in the fight against climate change, and should be passed through the Senate swiftly.”
The Growing Climate Solutions Act would create a certification program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (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.
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.
The legislation was recently unanimously reported out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and awaits consideration by the full Senate. In addition, the Growing Climate Solutions Act has garnered broad, bipartisan support from over 60 leading agricultural and environmental organizations.
In addition to Senators Collins and King, the legislation was co-sponsored by John Boozman (R-AR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John Thune (R-SD), Todd Young (R-IN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ron Wyden (R-OR), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).