On Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed the Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA) by a vote of 92 to 8.
The bipartisan legislation was originally sponsored by Senators Mike Braun (R-IN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
The bill, S.1251, creates a new program to self-certify technical assistance providers and third-party verifiers for the agriculture and forestry sectors for voluntary actions that are intended to reduce the amount of air and carbon pollution and for processes to naturally store carbon.
It directs the USDA to publish a list of the protocols for voluntary environmental markets that have the potential to further support farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners in adopting sustainable management practices.
Many groups applauded the passage of the bill in the Senate, which now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“We appreciate lawmakers putting aside their differences to work on bipartisan solutions to the challenges facing farmers and ranchers,” says American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall. “The Growing Climate Solutions Act acknowledges the potential of climate-smart farming while ensuring farmers would be respected as partners who can build on our strong foundation of environmental stewardship.”
The Growing Climate Solutions Act is supported by more than 75 agriculture, food, forestry and environmental groups that are part of the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA). The alliance advocates for responsible policies that build on voluntary, incentive-based programs, market-driven opportunities and science-based approaches.
This legislation would provide clarity and guidance for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners interested in voluntary participation in private carbon credit markets. With a growing number of ecosystem service providers, producers seek a trusted source for reliable information.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act would create a certification program at USDA to help solve technical entry barriers. Landowner participation and the adoption of practices have been slowed by a lack of access to reliable information about private carbon markets, as well as too few qualified technical assistance providers and credit protocol verifiers.
"Many are interested in participating in voluntary environmental credit markets, but market conditions are evolving rapidly and lacking uniform standards," says Kevin Scott, chairman and soybean farmer of the American Soybean Association (ASA) in Valley Springs, SD. "This 'moving goal' makes it difficult for individual farmers to decide which option is best for their operation. The GCSA Senate passage is a positive step towards making these markets transparent and accessible to farmers, enabling them to make informed contributions to climate solutions."