Bill would pay farmers, ranchers, and foresters for storing carbon

The Idaho congressional delegation has the unique opportunity to support the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA) to help farmers, ranchers and forest owners reduce greenhouse gas emissions and obtain assistance for their conservation efforts.  Landowners and farmers could earn money “for activities ranging from reforestation to sequestering carbon in soil to capturing methane from livestock.” 

Forestry and agriculture are two key sectors in Idaho, generating over $32 billion in sales and creating 143,611 jobs in the state. As such, the impacts of these natural resource industries have significant implications for Idaho’s economy and people’s livelihoods. But changes to Idaho’s climate and weather patterns can directly hit the profits of farms, ranches, and working forests, as demonstrated by the loss of 30% of the state’s potato crop due to early frosts in the fall of 2019.

On June 4, Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) introduced the Growing Climate Solutions Act (S. 3894) with cosponsors Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). An identical bill (H.R. 7393) was introduced in the House of Representatives by nine Representatives on June 26.  This bill would establish a USDA certification program to help landowners generate credits for storing carbon through best management practices for farms, ranches and forests. Third-party verifiers will assist in the implementation and monetization of these credits to find a dollar value for these conservation practices. 

The GCSA seeks to establish a new certification program within the USDA to help farmers and ranchers receive compensation for the carbon they store. The Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program attempts to lower barriers to entry into carbon credit markets for the agricultural and forestry sectors. The goal is to provide support and information for farmers looking to implement best practices that sequester carbon, reduce emissions, improve soil health, and make their operations more sustainable. These practices also will help make forestry and agricultural operations more resilient to climate change while reducing the impact of these natural resource sectors on climate change.

Sustainable land-use practices in forests and agricultural lands can sequester carbon for as low as $10 per million metric tons of carbon dioxide, making it one of the most cost-effective carbon sequestration methods available. This rate is equal to the amount of carbon dioxide that 26 million tree seedlings would consume throughout ten years of growth

Another way to visualize one metric ton of carbon dioxide is to imagine a balloon as wide and tall as the space between the goal line to the 10-yard line on a football field completely filled with carbon dioxide gas. Carbon credits are a certificate or permit representing the right to emit one metric ton of carbon dioxide, or one ten-yard diameter carbon dioxide balloon, and can be traded in markets voluntarily or to comply with government regulations. Historically, carbon credit markets were established by regulation compliance most notably through cap-and-trade programs. But as businesses have become more aware of climate change, voluntarily buying carbon credits in order to offset a business’s own carbon dioxide emissions has become more popular. 

Federal incentives and support for farmers, ranchers, and landowners to enter into the carbon credit market—especially the voluntary market—is essential for market-based solutions to fight climate change. The GCSA can support and reward farmers, ranchers, foresters and landowners for their contribution to solving climate change. 

Helping farmers, ranchers, foresters, and landowners choose climate-friendly decisions will directly benefit both the economic and environmental well-being of our state. Join us in urging Idaho’s congressional delegation to support the Growing Climate Solutions Act. Take action now.