MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The National Cotton Council (NCC) says the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021 will help pave the way for producers and forest landowners to adopt carbon sequestration practices – thus helping lower greenhouse gas emissions.
The bill, introduced by Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), is scheduled to be marked up by that Committee on April 22. The bill has 34 co-sponsors, among them Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) and other Cotton Belt Senators: Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA).
NCC Chairman Kent Fountain, a Georgia cotton producer and ginner, said, “The U.S. cotton industry fully supports this legislation which will direct USDA to provide producers with reliable information and remove technical barriers to participating in private carbon credit markets.”
Mark McKean, a California cotton producer who chairs the NCC’s American Cotton Producers (ACP) and serves on the ACP’s Climate Policy Working Group, noted the bill includes a USDA certification component that lowers barriers to entry in the credit markets by reducing confusion and improving information for farmers looking to implement practices that capture carbon, reduce emissions, improve soil health, and make operations more sustainable.
The bill would require USDA to provide: 1) periodic assessments of current agriculture carbon markets; 2) findings by the Agriculture Secretary that program establishment will fulfill the Act’s purposes to benefit farmers; and 3) the Secretary to hold notice and comment rulemaking on the publication of a list of protocols for voluntary environmental credit markets and qualifications for certified technical assistance and verification providers.
Among the bill’s other key elements would be the establishment of a 32-member Advisory Council -- 51 percent of which must be farmers, ranchers or private forest landowners -- and strong confidentiality provisions to prevent USDA disclosure of farmer-specific or confidential business information.