WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) joined Senators Mike Braun (R-IN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in introducing the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act, legislation to break down barriers to farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices. The bill has garnered broad, bipartisan support from over 60 leading agricultural and environmental organizations.
“The agricultural community has a vital role to play in addressing climate change,” Senator Romney said. “By increasing access to the voluntary carbon credit market, our legislation will help reduce confusion and improve information for farmers and ranchers looking to implement practices that capture carbon, reduce emissions, improve soil health, and empower them in their stewardship of the land. I’m proud to join my colleagues in this effort and look forward to our continued work on the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.”
“As a Main Street entrepreneur and conservationist, I know firsthand that if we want to address our changing climate then we need to facilitate real solutions that our farmers, environmentalists, and industry can all support, which this bill accomplishes by breaking down barriers for farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices,” said Senator Braun.
“Addressing the climate crisis is one of the most urgent challenges we face and our farmers and foresters are an important part of the solution,” said Senator Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. “The bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act is a win-win for farmers, our economy and for our environment. Our bill is a perfect example of how we can work across the aisle and find common ground to address a critical issue affecting all of us and our future.”
“As Americans, we have the ability to come up with climate solutions that can benefit our economy and our way of life,” said Senator Graham. “The United States has long been a leader in innovation. This legislation is an opportunity to put our knowledge and can-do spirit to work to promote business opportunities for the agriculture industry while promoting the protection of our environment.”
“Farmers and foresters are seeing firsthand the effects of climate change on their livelihoods, and I’m glad to have them at the table working on solutions,” said Senator Whitehouse. “We will need nature-based solutions like the ones this bill seeks to incentivize in order to rapidly get to net zero emissions, as science tells us we must.”
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, the 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.
Cosponsoring the Growing Climate Solutions Act include John Boozman (R-AR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Angus King (I-ME), 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).