Carbon market legislation update

May 18, 2021
Will Stafford, CHS Washington representative, explains proposed agriculture legislation that could remove barriers for farmers participating in carbon markets.

Is the carbon market about to get more accessible for farmers? That’s the goal of proposed legislation working its way through Congress. The Growing Climate Solutions Act has rare bipartisan support and is backed by more than 60 agricultural and environmental organizations. Will Stafford, CHS Washington representative, explains what the legislation could mean for U.S. farmers.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act is designed to make it easier for farmers to participate in carbon markets and gain added value from sustainable farming practices. It also aims to add transparency and certainty to carbon markets for farmers.

“The bill directs USDA to provide technical assistance to farmers who are transitioning to carbon-smart practices and directs USDA to certify third-party verification services,” says Stafford. “USDA-certified status will help producers know they’re working with legitimate providers.”

Rare bipartisan support

The bill was introduced by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, and Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). “It’s been endorsed by almost half the Senate, which is a huge accomplishment,” Stafford notes. “It has already passed the Senate Agriculture Committee by a unanimous voice vote and is expected to pass the full Senate as well.”

The bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), but seems to have a few more hurdles to climb there than in the Senate, says Stafford. “No bill has 100% chance of passage until it’s signed by the president, but I think this legislation has a pretty good shot at becoming law by year-end.”

Second time around

The Growing Climate Solutions Act was initially introduced in 2020, but the current version has a few changes from the original. One major difference is that the current bill received support from the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), says Stafford.

“Boozman pushed for a portion of the bill that would require USDA to ensure technical assistance providers and third-party verifiers provide farmers with realistic cost and revenue estimates,” Stafford says. USDA-approved technical assistance providers also would also be charged with helping farmers, ranchers and foresters receive fair distribution of the revenue derived from the sale of carbon credits. Stafford added that USDA must also establish an advisory board to inform the Secretary of Agriculture on carbon markets and implementation of the bill. Unlike last year, this version of the bill requires that a majority of those board members be farmers.