To help farmers and ranchers overcome barriers to participating in voluntary carbon markets, the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act, introduced today, would establish a USDA certification program for the private parties that farmers work with to generate and sell their carbon credits.

Demand for carbon offsets has grown significantly, but the process is confusing and cumbersome, limiting farmers’, ranchers’ and foresters’ participation. Often, farmers who want to participate have to hire private parties to help them adopt the right conservation practices and verify that certain processes and protocols were followed in implementing those practices.

Introduced by Senators Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the bill creates an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to be financially rewarded for the voluntary, sustainable steps they’re taking, said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

“America’s farmers and ranchers have made tremendous strides in reducing our carbon footprint, with overall greenhouse gas emissions under 10% for our industry. As we endeavor to do more with less, we are always focused on doing better and working together to protect the natural resources we all enjoy. We are grateful to Senators Braun and Stabenow for consulting us on their efforts to bring clarity and validity to a voluntary, market-based carbon-credit system and provide a USDA-led review to inspire confidence as we enter the new carbon marketplace,” Duvall said.

National Farmers Union President Rob Larew 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. Carbon credit exchanges can provide them with a market-based system to finance those improvements.  It is very encouraging to see legislators work across the aisle to provide certainty to those looking to participate in carbon credit marketplaces. In doing so, the Growing Climate Solutions Act is an important step toward strong and comprehensive climate policy that both provides farmers of all sizes with the resources they need to mitigate and adapt to climate change as well as recognizes the vital public good that comes from those efforts.”

Along with the certification program, the bill would also organize an advisory council to keep the Agriculture secretary and the department updated on developments in carbon markets. The council will be composed of agriculture experts, scientists, conservationists and producers who will be tasked with ensuring the certification program remains relevant, credible and responsive to the needs of farmers, forest landowners and carbon market participants alike.

The bill also calls for a regular report to lawmakers on barriers to carbon market entry, producer challenges, market performance and opportunities for USDA to contribute to the further adoption of voluntary carbon sequestration.

In addition, the legislation would establish a new USDA website to serve as a comprehensive resource for farmers and foresters interested in generating carbon credits. The website will explain how they can get started and connect them with USDA-certified entities to set up their carbon credit operation and provide more details on the private sector marketplace.

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American Farm Bureau Federation

National Farmers Union

Northern Ag Network

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