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In Rare Bipartisan Bill, U.S. Senators Tackle Climate Change via Agriculture

Agriculture, Carbon Capture, Farming/Growing, Federal Agency, Federal Legislation, Infrastructure, Marketing/Markets and Sales, Opinions, Policy, R & D Focus
June 4, 2020

by Valerie Volcovici (Reuters/Yahoo!) U.S. senators on Thursday introduced a bipartisan bill that would direct the Agriculture Department to help farmers, ranchers and landowners use carbon dioxide-absorbing practices to generate carbon credits, a rare collaboration on climate change.

The proposed Growing Climate Solutions Act directs the USDA to create a program that would help the agriculture sector gain access to revenue from greenhouse gas offset credit markets.

The bill is co-sponsored by Republican Senators Mike Braun of Indiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Democratic Senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

The bill would establish USDA-certified protocols for farmers, ranch and forest owners seeking to develop projects that can generate offset credits under existing programs. It would offer a new revenue stream for farmers, ranchers and land owners suffering from the economic impacts of global trade tensions and the coronavirus.

Landowners and farmers can generate credits and earn money for activities ranging from reforestation to sequestering carbon in soil to capturing methane from livestock.

Demand for credits is expected to grow when airlines are required to purchase offsets to comply with the industry’s Carbon Offset Reduction Scheme (CORSIA), which will begin in 2021.   READ MORE

Bipartisan bill aims to jump-start ag carbon markets (Agri-Pulse)

Bipartisan bill would help farmers tap carbon markets (E&E News)

BIPARTISAN BILL WOULD REWARD FARMERS FOR CLIMATE-SMART PRACTICES (Brownfield Ag News)

The Energy 202: Two GOP senators join with Democrats to back bill to help cut emissions from farms (Washington Post)

Bill would help farmers, foresters participate in carbon markets  (Ethanol Producer Magazine)

Growing Climate Smart Solutions Act of 2020 Signals Progress (Solutions from the Land)

Building Climate Resilience From the Ground And Seafloor Up (Our Daily Planet)

Growing Climate Solutions Act set to be introduced in U.S. Senate (Office of Senator Mike Braun (R-IN))

Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020 signals progress (High Plains Journal)

FOR YOUR RADAR: (Politico’s Morning Energy)

Lawmakers to review agriculture carbon markets bill (E&E News)

Enabling Ag Carbon Credits: Senate Hearing Will Examine Policies to Get Farmers Certified for Carbon Sequestration (DTN Progressive Farmer)

A Consensus Climate Solution Grown on the Farm (RealClearEnergy)

Farm group calls EPA a ‘barrier’ for emissions reduction in biofuels (The Hill)

‘Carbon Farming’ Could Make US Agriculture Truly Green (Wired)

Carbon Markets Contribute to Financial and Environmental Sustainability of Family Farm Agriculture (National Farmers Union)

Biofuels, bioenergy to benefit from Growing Climate Solutions Act (Ethanol Producer Magazine)

Growth Energy submits comments on Growing Climate Solutions Act (Biofuels International)

CONSERVATIVES PUSH GOP ON CLIMATE BILL: (Politico’s Morning Energy)

OpEd: Proposed Legislation Could Give Farmers Revenue Opportunity (Farm Journal/AgWeb/America’s Conservation Ag Movement)

 

Excerpt from Politico’s Morning Energy:  FOR YOUR RADAR: Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a full committee hearing Wednesday (June 24, 2020) on a bipartisan bill, S. 3894 (116), on carbon farming — an increasingly popular idea for curbing climate change. The bill, introduced by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), a member of the Agriculture Committee, and ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), as well as Graham and Whitehouse, would allow third-party entities to become “USDA certified” as technical service providers or verifiers in a bid to create more legitimacy and consistency as more carbon sequestration initiatives crop up.

The bill is backed by a broad range of groups, including the Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union and The Nature Conservancy, as well as several major corporations like McDonald’s and Microsoft.    READ MORE

 

Excerpt from DTN Progressive Farmer: Though not testifying before the Senate, Ohio farmer Fred Yoder, chairman of the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA), said he is just thrilled that there is finally some bipartisan dialogue on the topic of agriculture and climate change. The bill is largely an enabling policy for farmers and landowners to tap into some services at USDA, but it is also completely voluntary for farmers.

“Sooner or later, we’re going to have to determine what a certified credit is going to be,” Yoder told DTN. “So I think it’s important to really start to lay this out now.”

Yoder would like to see any carbon or environmental credit programs be viewed as separate or decoupled from crop production. Too often, Yoder said, practices become commoditized and incorporated into the price of the commodity.

“And the first thing you know, it just becomes standard, and any kind of bonus or economic advantage is gone,” Yoder said.

The Senate bill promotes access to technical assistance, which would be comparable to what USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service provides now for conservation practices. The bipartisan bill sets up a program at USDA for standards and third-party certification to determine if practices on a piece of farmland or forest meet the requirements necessary to participate in a carbon market. The bill also would set up a USDA advisory council “composed of agricultural experts, scientists, producers, and others” who would advise USDA on certification for a carbon program.

The bill has the backing of more than 50 different farm groups, environmental groups and major corporations.

The Senate bill right now does not have a companion piece in the House, though that could soon change. The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is expected to release a report by June 30 on recommended legislation, and the committee heard multiple times from agricultural groups and advocates about carbon sequestration strategies for farms.

Last fall, the Noble Institute in Oklahoma released a study showing the potential demand for a carbon market from agriculture at 190 million metric tons with a value of about $5.2 billion. There also was comparable market value for environmental credits tied to nitrogen and phosphorus reduction in waterways.

No-till practices, cover crops, as well as grazing and pasturelands are just a few of the practices and land-management strategies that add carbon to the soil. Forestry also provides significant carbon sequestration on land.

In a letter to U.S. senators last week, Yoder and members of NACSSA wrote, “Farmers must be at the center of all discussions and decision-making” on climate topics. The group also pointed out there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to improving agriculture’s resilience and potential to mitigate climate change.

Still, carbon sequestration has its critics in the environmental world. The World Resources Institute, based in Washington, released a report in May arguing that regenerative agricultural practices can improve soil health “and yield some valuable environmental benefits,” but carbon sequestration on cropland is “unlikely to achieve large-scale emission reductions.”

The authors of the World Resources Institute report declare benefits of carbon sequestration to reduce emissions are uncertain on both cropland and grazing land, and there is often faulty carbon accounting. The use of nitrogen fertilizer also offsets carbon sequestration, the WRI report stated.

Along with all of this, practices such as growing cover crops are not widespread. It would take roughly 85% of cropland planted with cover crops to sequester 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. But, right now, only 5%-6% of major crop acres have cover crops applied to them. WRI then adds that if agriculture adopted these practices, it could lead to declining yields.

The WRI post drew rebuke from several scientists who work in the carbon-sequestration space, including Ohio State University soil scientist Rattan Lal, who was just named 2020 laureate for the World Food Prize, along with Keith Paustian and Rich Conant at Colorado State University, as well as researchers from France and Scotland.

Given the severity of challenges surrounding climate change, the scientists stated, “We believe that the science is clear that regenerative agriculture can, in fact, contribute significant emission reductions and (carbon dioxide) removal, as well as improve soil health.”

As the group of soil scientists described, “regenerative agriculture” practices follow some principles that maintain continuous vegetation that reduces soil disturbance and increases the diversity of organic residue returning to the soil. That then translates into maximizing nutrient and water-use efficiency by plants. In general, these practices increase soil carbon stocks and reduce carbon losses.

The scientists also stated they did not believe there was strong evidence to support an assumption of yield decline, “And indeed it is more likely that in the long run, regenerative practices will reduce soil degradation and improve yield stability, resulting in less pressure for land-use conversion.”

Closing their case, the soil scientists stated, “Climate change as well as food security, climate resilience, biodiversity and soil health are all interrelated parts of a new global imperative.”

Agriculture must transform to provide not just food and fiber, but environmental services as well, which includes both mitigating and adapting to climate change.

“The challenge, however, is whether socio-economic and political can be overcome to bring that transformation to scale,” the soil scientists stated.

World Resources Institute, Regenerative Agriculture: Good for Soil Health, but Limited Potential to Mitigate Climate Change: https://www.wri.org/…

Soil scientists’ response to World Resources Institute: https://static1.squarespace.com/…

Details on Wednesday’s Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the Growing Climate Solutions Act: https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/…         READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Farm Journal/AgWeb/America’s Conservation Ag Movement: 

We recently testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry on the importance of this measure and the opportunities it presents for America’s farmers and ranchers. You can read our written testimonies or see a video of the entire hearing on the Committee’s website.

The hearing is worth a watch. For nearly two hours, Democrats and Republicans came together to discuss the power of farmer-led and farmer-driven stewardship. At a time when politics feels particularly partisan, it was exciting to be a part of a process where everyone was focused on driving workable solutions.    

 The hearing – and the legislation itself – is a high-profile recognition that working with farmers and ranchers is one of the quickest, most scalable and economically feasible ways to address greenhouse gas emissions.

If passed, the Growing Climate Solutions Act would address that challenge by providing the core infrastructure needed for viable greenhouse gas and ecosystem services markets. The bill outlines an important role for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide a trusted source of information on the protocols and standards farmers and ranchers must implement on their land, as well as a web-based resource to identify service providers to help them create GHG credits.

Farmers and ranchers are businesspeople: They know that markets work best when there is transparency in rules and prices. Markets are most efficient when they reduce barriers for sellers and provide quality for buyers. This legislation is an important step in creating these conditions for agricultural carbon credits.

This is not about regulation. Ultimately, it is a voluntary marketplace that will create a new revenue stream for farmers to tap if it is the right choice for their businesses.

This legislation is not a silver bullet to ensure the success of carbon markets and create new revenue streams for farmers and ranchers. There are still considerable needs for more research, the removal of barriers to renewable energy and biofuels production and use, and a broad and necessary expansion of internet access in rural areas. A carbon market will not work without internet access. Unlocking the potential of this marketplace requires data, access to information and machine learning.

That is why Land O’Lakes, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union and many others across the food and agriculture supply chain are working to address the digital divide, including providing free Wi-Fi access points in rural communities.

But closing the digital divide will also require federal support and investment in rural broadband infrastructure to ensure every corner of rural America is properly connected to the digital world.    READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Politico’s Morning Energy:  CONSERVATIVES PUSH GOP ON CLIMATE BILL: A collection of climate-friendly conservative organizations urged Republican lawmakers to back the Growing Climate Solutions Act (S. 3894 (116)), which would create an Agriculture Department certification program enabling farmers, ranchers and forest managers to participate in carbon credit markets. “As conservatives, we see this legislation as an opportunity to offer effective, meaningful, and fiscally responsible policies that can be enacted right now to mitigate the effects of climate change,” Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, American Conservation Coalition, ConservAmerica, National Taxpayers Union and R Street Institute wrote in a letter READ MORE

Legislative Hearing to Review S. 3894, The Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020

  1. Mr. Brent Bible
    Corn and Soybean Producer, Farmer Adviser
    Environmental Defense Fund
    LafayetteIN
  2. Mr. Zippy Duvall
    President
    American Farm Bureau Federation
    GreensboroGA
  3. Mr. Rob Larew
    President
    National Farmers Union
    GreenvilleWV
  4. Mr. Jason Weller
    Vice President, Truterra
    Land O’Lakes, Inc.
    Arden HillsMN

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exploration oil monopoly oil price parity oil prices oil production oil refineries oil replacement Oils oil sands oil seed oil seed crops oil speculators oil spill oil subsidies oil taxes Oklahoma olefins olive cake olive oil olive pits olives olive water Oman Omega-3s on-farm algae production on-farm biodiesel on-farm ethanol production on-farm natural gas production on-farm processing one pound waiver onion waste online courses Ontario OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) open fuel standard open pond optimized flex fuel vehicles orange peel orchard grass orchard prunings Oregon organic solar cells OSHA Overseas Private Investment Corporation overview overview/survey course oxygen oxygenate ozone Pakistan Palau palm palm biomass palm fatty acid distillate palm fiber palm fronds palm kernel palm kernel oil palm kernel shell palm oil palm oil mill effluent (POME) palm oil prices palm waste Paludiculture/peatland cultivation Panama pandas panic grass papaya paper 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