A bipartisan group of senators Thursday introduced a bill to help agriculture contribute to and benefit from comprehensive climate solutions. The Growing Climate Solutions Act directs the Department of Agriculture to create a certification program that will make it easier for farmers to sell environmental credits.

In TIndiana Farmer Brent Bible says the legislation rewards farmers for sustainable practices on their farm.

“Farmers at their core are businessmen, but they are also conservationists and they are also environmentalists. Farmers want to do the right thing for their farms, their ranches, so that they can sustain those operations, not just over their lifetime, but over generations. This Act gives us the opportunity to do those things and have some guidance and direction in what practices are good for the environment and there is an economic benefit for doing those particular things.”

USDA would review the science and define the rules of the program. Then approved private sector certifiers would work directly with farmers to find value in the conservation practices farmers choose to use.

Callie Eideberg, Environmental Defense Fund Government Affairs Director, says the legislation opens a new revenue stream for farmers.

“The Growing Climate Solutions Act is going to make it much easier for farmer to develop and verify and sell environmental credits into voluntary markets. At the same time, its going to open up a vital new revenue stream for farmers who’ve just been on an economic roller coaster over these past few years. Farmers are vitally important for building climate resilience on the land and this bill makes it easier for farmers to benefit from that and be a part of the climate solution.” 

The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Senators Mike Braun, Debbie Stabenow, Lindsey Graham, and Sheldon Whitehouse. Bible says the bill champions conservation efforts and provides value back to the farmer.

“Personally, for me, it’s good to see Indiana through Senator Braun being a leader in conservation. Indiana has done that in the past. No till practices, cover croping practices are widely used in this state. To see Senator Braun step up and provide a capitalistic marketplace opportunity for farmers to continue to benefit from those practices is very encouraging. And, what that brings to the table is a voluntary open marketplace with limited government involvement and intervention.”

Eideberg says the bill will enable environmental markets to reward farmers for their climate smart practices they are already using and encourage more farmers to do the same.

“These practices increase climate resilience and create a win-win for the environment and for farmers. For example, these practices build healthy soils. Healthy soils will sponge up more water. Sponging up more water helps to reduce risks from floods and from droughts, it helps to filter and slow the water runoff and soil erosion from fields. So, if farmers, through this bill, are given an incentive to increase the conservation practices on their land, the environment is going to benefit at the same time.”

Learn more about the bill and environmentally friendly farming practices online by visiting the Environmental Defense Fund website at edf.org/growingreturns.