Bi-Partisan “Growing Climate Solutions Act” Under Consideration by U.S. Senate

Source: Robb Williamson, NREL, 13009

On June 24, 2020, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing on the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020 (S.3894). The bill was introduced by Senator. Braun (R-IN) on June 4, 2020, with bi-partisan co-sponsors: Senator Graham (R-SC), Senator Stabenow (D-MI), and Senator Whitehouse (D-RI). The goal is to support voluntary greenhouse gas reductions in the agricultural sector, by formalizing carbon offset markets and simplifying access to these markets for farmers, thus increasing revenue streams and providing market certainty.

Today, many states, cities, and corporations have low-carbon or other sustainability goals. With the agricultural sector accounting for a large share of national greenhouse gas emissions, and the ability to alter land-use practices to provide a carbon sink, there has been a great deal of activity to formalize the sale of verified carbon credits or crop sales with attached attributes, like low-water use or low-carbon emissions. Several private markets have emerged to fill this gap and connect farmers with potential buyers, such as IndigoAg or the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund, and from 2016 to 2018, there was a twelve-fold increase in the number of carbon credits sold related to agricultural land-use or forestry. This bill would formalize these markets at the federal level, through five key steps:

  1. Require the USDA to publish a list of “widely used industry protocols” for carbon offset markets and establish a common methodology to ensure offsets are verified and standardized across markets.
  2. Create a process that certifies new offset markets.
  3. Create a USDA website that acts as a “one stop shop” for agricultural producers and landowners to learn about and participate in these markets.
  4. Establish an Advisory Council to advise the USDA on this process.
  5. Require a USDA “Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Credit Marketplaces and Verification Regimes,” in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency, to analyze best practices, the state of carbon offset monitoring and verification, and the potential to integrate new technology into these efforts.

The bill has widespread support, not only on a bi-partisan level, but across agricultural companies, the food industry, and environmental groups; among the groups who have expressed support of the bill are Cargill, Bayer, The National Farmers Union, Land O’Lakes, McDonalds, the Nature Conservancy, and the Natural Wildlife Federation.