Bipartisan legislation to make it easier for farmers and foresters using conservation practices to participate in carbon markets has been introduced in the House.
Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, and Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, a Republican, recently proposed the Growing Climate Solutions Act. The bill is supported by a wide range of farming, environmental and industry organizations in Virginia, Nebraska and across the country.
The proposed bill would create a certification program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help remove barriers that prevent farmers and foresters from participating in carbon credit markets. Through the program, USDA would act as a liaison between farmers and private sectors.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall told Congress that American agriculture accounts for less than 10% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, far less than transportation, electricity generation and industry sectors. He added that carbon sequestration from forestland, grasslands and farmland converted to forestland “more than offset agriculture’s total greenhouse gas emissions.”
He said AFBF supports empowering USDA to help farmers navigate carbon market exchanges or programs. “The bill also would provide the secretary of agriculture with an advisory council made up of agriculture experts, scientists, producers and others to ensure the certification program works for all participants.”
Currently, farmers don’t have access to reliable information about carbon markets or access to qualified technical assistance and credit protocol verifiers, noted Virginia Farm Bureau Federation President Wayne F. Pryor. “This has limited both landowner participation and the adoption of practices to help reduce the costs of developing carbon credits. We commend Congresswoman Spanberger for taking the lead on this bill to help ensure farmers have opportunities to participate in emerging carbon markets.”
The Growing Climate Solutions Act establishes a Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program. Through the program, USDA would be able to work with 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 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,” explained Ben Rowe, VFBF national affairs coordinator.
“Many Virginia farmers are already implementing practices with carbon-sequestration benefits, like no-till farming, reforestation and precision agriculture,” he added. The bill would allow farmers to receive credit for these practices and trade them to buyers in the electric generation, industrial and transportation sectors that are interested in offsetting emissions.
USDA certification would make sure the program providers have agriculture and forestry expertise, which is lacking in the current marketplace. Also, USDA would administer a new website that would serve as a “one-stop shop” of information and resources for producers and foresters who are interested in participating in carbon markets.