Ag sustainability changes to watch

March 30, 2021
Will Stafford, CHS Washington representative, discusses policy updates expected from the Biden administration on climate change, carbon markets and sustainability.

The policymaking wheels are turning in Washington with a new administration at the helm. What legislative actions will affect farmers? Will Stafford, CHS Washington representative, reviews the three issues farmers should watch in the coming months.

Climate and Sustainability

The Biden administration has made it clear that climate issues and sustainability will be major policy priorities — and agriculture will be along for the ride.

“A recent executive order instructed USDA to seek input from agriculture stakeholders regarding climate policies and how producers can best use them,” says Stafford. “Following passage of the COVID-19 stimulus package, there’s talk of Congress and the Biden administration pushing for a large-scale infrastructure package that could include numerous climate and sustainability policies impacting farmers and ranchers.”

Carbon Markets

Carbon is a big topic of conversation as a potential new revenue stream for farmers, and more players from the private sector are becoming involved in the discussion, says Stafford.

“USDA has been exploring ideas, including a carbon bank where farmers would be paid to store carbon using sustainable agriculture practices, with the goal being to offset greenhouse gas emissions.”

Stafford references the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act making its way through Congress, which seeks to break down barriers and provide technical assistance for farmers and ranchers who want to participate in carbon markets. “The Senate Agriculture Committee recently held a hearing on this bill and other climate-related policies. The bill is supported by groups such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.”

Time to Speak Up

Stafford doesn’t see conversations about carbon and sustainability ending anytime soon, especially when looking ahead to the 2023 Farm Bill. He encourages farmers and farm organizations to make their voices heard regarding what they want to see in climate policy.

“At CHS, we’re asking policymakers to ensure any incentive-based sustainability or carbon programs remain voluntary for producers and they maintain funding for the existing suite of farm programs,” Stafford says. “We’re reminding them that a policy that might work for one crop in one region may work very differently for farmers raising other crops in other parts of the country.

“As we gain more clarity on these and other issues, CHS will continue to do what we can to help farmers be as successful as possible—whether that’s assisting them in their daily decisions on the farm or advocating on their behalf in Congress.”