OPINION Along with a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues, I’ve reintroduced the Growing Climate Solutions Act. It was approved by the Senate Committee of Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; it now heads to the Senate floor.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act, which has broad bipartisan support from more than 60 leading agricultural and environmental organizations, will break down barriers for farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices.
Wisconsin farmers know that climate change is a real, immediate and growing threat to our economy. They also understand that the longer we fail to act, the more costly the climate crisis will be. The climate crisis is unsustainable for our agriculture economy. That’s why we need to support the innovative practices that farmers are already doing to be part of the solution and generate new economic growth for rural communities. Our agricultural economy has a lot to lose if we don’t act on climate change and that is why we need to take bold action now.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act creates a certification program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help solve technical entry barriers that prevent farmer and forest landowners from participating in carbon-credit markets. Those 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 that the Growing Climate Solutions Act establishes a Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program through which the USDA will be able to provide transparency, legitimacy and informal endorsement of third-party verifiers and technical-service providers. That will help private landowners generate carbon credits through a variety of agricultural and forestry-related practices. The USDA certification program will ensure that technical-assistance providers have agricultural and forestry expertise, which is lacking in the current marketplace. As part of the program the 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 the 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 “USDA Certified” as a technical-assistance provider or verifier. The USDA certification reduces 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.
Currently 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 that 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 the certification program remains relevant, credible and responsive to the needs of farmers, forest landowners and carbon-market participants alike.
The proposed bill instructs the USDA to produce a report to Congress to advise about further development of the policy.
- barriers to market entry
- challenges raised by farmers and forest landowners
- market performance
- suggestions on where the USDA can make a positive contribution to the further adoption of voluntary carbon-sequestration practices in agriculture and forestry
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Madison represents Wisconsin’s 2nd District as a member of the Democratic Party.