Agri-Pulse: Senate Ag moves Stabenow-Braun climate bill

AGRI-PULSE, STEVE DAVIES

The Senate Agriculture Committee has cleared the way for floor consideration of the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which would help farmers, ranchers and foresters take part in voluntary carbon markets.

The bill, S. 1251, passed the committee by voice vote Thursday without opposition. Notably, it now has 42 co-sponsors, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

“This brings us one step closer to providing more opportunities for farmers and foresters to lead in addressing the climate crisis and also benefit from new streams of income,” said committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

“This collaboration is a continuation of the long-standing tradition that is expected of the Senate Agriculture Committee to develop practical, bipartisan policy,” Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, the panel’s top Republican, said.

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who worked with Stabenow to gain bipartisan support for the bill, said for conservatives, “this is a way to say we want to be engaged and we want to be doing something” on climate.

The action came on Earth Day, as President Joe Biden announced a goal of cutting the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.

The bill was joined today on the House side by a bill with the same name, introduced by Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Don Bacon, R-Neb. Their Growing Climate Solutions Act “would establish a Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program through which USDA would 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,” according to a press release that also noted the bill has 22 co-sponsors, including nine Republicans.

The bill picked up a quick endorsement from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Beth McGee, the group’s director of Science and Agricultural Policy, said, “Farmers are essential partners in saving the Chesapeake Bay and slowing climate change. Plans to restore the Bay and its waterways rely heavily on farmers across the watershed adopting conservation measures to reduce polluted runoff. Many of these practices provide the added benefit of keeping greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere. Unfortunately, many farmers who want to implement them lack the financial and technical means to do so. CBF applauds Rep. Spanberger for her commitment to making it easier for farmers to participate in carbon markets and earn income for adopting practices that are good for the Bay and help fight climate change.” 

But the bills face opposition from both the left and the right.

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., has called it a “complex solution in search of a problem” and said he does not see the need for expanded technical assistance.

Meanwhile, numerous environmental groups have criticized the legislation for allowing corporations emitting greenhouse gases to offset them by purchasing carbon credits.

“These carbon offset schemes allow utilities, fossil fuel companies and other polluters to continue releasing greenhouse gases, instead of actually reducing and eliminating their emissions,” said a letter sent last week by those groups to members of Congress.

The GCSA has the support of some prominent environmental groups, including the National Wildlife Federation and Environmental Defense Fund, as well as a raft of farm groups. 

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