Our bitterly divided federal government has produced little bipartisan legislation recently, so it’s encouraging to see the “Growing Climate Solutions Act” by a bipartisan group of senators, including Indiana Sen. Mike Braun. A bipartisan House version (five Republicans and five Democrats) was recently introduced. These are very important steps in America’s response to the public health and economic threats of our changing climate.
Agriculture contributes about 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and forestry adds more. Many opportunities exist for farmers and foresters to reduce carbon through cost-effective actions such as healthy soil management, decreased use of fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, increased use of clean renewable fuels, reforestation, and livestock management. Some farmers and foresters are already adopting these smart climate practices, but not nearly enough if we are to decrease carbon at the rate necessary to keep global warming below the level needed to avoid major public health and economic harms.
The Senate bill would encourage farmers to adopt climate-friendly practices by increasing their ability to turn climate action into cash. It provides transparency, legitimacy and informal endorsement of third-party carbon credit verifiers and technical service providers with agriculture and forestry expertise to help farmers and foresters generate carbon credits they can sell on the market. A “one-stop shop” website for those interested in participating in carbon markets will get them easily in the door. As Lafayette farmer Brent Bible said in a recent blog post, “ongoing and diversified revenue streams … would help smooth the ups and downs of the commodity markets and keep [farmers] in business.”