Washington, D.C. –By a vote of 92-8, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME), members of the Climate Solutions Caucus, 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 Growing Climate Solutions Act was led by Senators Mike Braun (R-IN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Chris Coons (D-DE).
“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. “I am pleased that the Senate has passed our bipartisan legislation that 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.”
“Maine’s agricultural and forest products industries are vital to our state, but they are already being impacted by climate change,” said Senator King. “For the health of these industries and the health of our planet, we must encourage and incentivize Maine’s farmers, loggers, and associated businesses to adapt their work in ways that will mitigate the effects of climate change. This overwhelmingly bipartisan vote should be the start of an extended, cross-party dialogue to find solutions that help confront the threat of climate change and keep American businesses competitive in the economy of the future.”
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 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 is co-sponsored by 55 senators, including every other member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus: Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Rob Portman (R-OH).
The Senate Climate Solutions Caucus promotes bipartisan discussion about climate policy and advocates for Congress to play a central role in addressing the challenge. Since launching in late 2019, the caucus has held regular meetings with a variety of stakeholders to discuss their concerns and priorities for federal climate policy and opportunities for collaboration. For more about the caucus’ activities, please visit the caucus website here.