Key senators on both sides of the aisle introduced a bill Thursday that would create a new certification program at USDA to help carbon markets function better — a significant bipartisan move that could position agriculture as a more prominent player in the battle against climate change.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act, introduced by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, as well as Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), would establish a “Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program.”
The program would improve transparency and make it easier for farmers and other landowners to participate in carbon markets. Third-party entities would be able to become “USDA certified” as technical service providers or verifiers, a move aimed at creating more legitimacy and consistency as more carbon sequestration initiatives crop up.
“Today, many third-party groups are developing protocols and testing methods to calculate emissions reduction and sequestration in agriculture and forestry. The landscape is evolving rapidly,” the lawmakers said in a release.
The bill would also set up “a robust advisory council” with a battery of experts and producers to advise the Agriculture Secretary on the certification program.
The department is also asked to administer a new website to create a “one stop shop” for those interested in participating in carbon markets. USDA would also be required to produce a report to Congress.
The bill is backed by a broad range of agriculture groups, including the Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union and The Nature Conservancy, as well as several major corporations like McDonald's and Microsoft.