Grassley backs bipartisan effort to pay farmers to fight climate change

Cuts in air emissions at Iowa businesses have caused a tight budget at the state air quality bureau. (Photo by Rebecca Human via Pixabay)

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says he plans to work with Democratic agriculture secretary nominee Tom Vilsack and President Joe Biden on bipartisan farm programs that could help curb climate change. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting. (Screen shot from C-SPAN livestream of hearing)

A former Iowa governor who is well-acquainted with Republican Grassley, Vilsack told senators at a hearing this week that finding a way for farmers to help sweep carbon from the skies, and get paid for it, would be one of his top priorities in a second stint as ag secretary.

Vilsack led the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) throughout the Obama-Biden administration. Biden, now the Democratic president of the United States, has made addressing climate change a top issue. 

Grassley told reporters during a call Wednesday he has co-sponsored the Growing Climate Solutions Act that would make it USDA’s job to look for ways farmers could help trap carbon in the soil, through plantings, for example. He’s also interested in the trading of carbon credits that could allow farmers to get revenue from those plantings. 

That bill, introduced in the House and Senate last June, would require the ag department to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to, among other things:

— Inventory the federal and private entities trading in voluntary domestic greenhouse gas markets or in carbon sequestration on farms and forests.

— Estimate the market demand for carbon credits on those lands.

— Record the number of credits in development, generated or sold in the past four years.

Grassley said he is working with Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Mike Braun, R-Indiana; and Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, the new chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

The bill would make appropriations to the agriculture department “to help farmers do more things that would lead to carbon sequestration,” in which carbon is stored in soils after it is swept from the air, Grassley said.

That would allow businesses that aren’t able to offset their own emissions to buy carbon credits from the farmers.

The country needs to look to farms to help reduce climate change, as forest owners in the West do, Grassley said.

“The average family farmer isn’t set up to do a lot of these things right now,” he added. “We want to get farmers involved in it.”

“That is one area where we could do more” bipartisan legislation, Grassley said.

Grassley said biofuels can also be part of the climate change. Having Vilsack and Biden in office should help bolster that industry, he added.