As a conservationist in a state like Iowa where agriculture is so important, I often come to a crossroads with farmers and landowners: balancing profitability with environmental sustainability.
While many farmers care greatly about the land, and want to incorporate environmentally friendly farming practices, financial hurdles often cut these dreams short.
Many green practices require new or different farming equipment that can cost thousands if not millions of dollars for farmers. Moreover, taking farmland out of use to reseed with plants from the region will naturally mean lost revenue for the farmer. What farmers need is a voluntary environmental program that is both financially responsible and protects land meaningfully, forever.
A piece of legislation originally introduced in June of 2020, the Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA), aims at doing just that. Re-introduced to the 117th Congress by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators this week, the bill provides funding to farmers and landowners engaging in farming practices that capture and store carbon in the soil. It was refreshing to see Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst as two of the cosponsors on this bipartisan effort that will benefit all Iowans on and off the farm.
While a carbon credit program like this does already exist, there are many hurdles that limit farmers from actually participating in it. Large landholders already have the funding and resources to navigate these emerging markets. Smaller farmers and ranchers in Iowa are apprehensive because of a lack of transparency, reliable information, and knowledgeable assistance providers.
The GCSA aims to provide resources to farmers, ranchers, and forest owners interested in these emerging carbon credit markets. It establishes technical assistant providers who will be knowledgeable about agriculture and land conservation to help landowners implement and monetize practices that pull and store carbon in the soil. Moreover, a third-party verification certification program, organized by the USDA, will provide greater access and legitimacy to this program.
Legislation like the Growing Climate Solutions Act levels the playing field for farmers and ranchers. Through voluntary financial incentives, it creates opportunities for them to thrive in a green economy and in a changing climate.
Senators Grassley and Ernst have always been champions for farmers. I’m grateful for both of the senators’ continued efforts to protect Iowans and our state’s invaluable natural resources. This legislation would uniquely bring back revenue to Iowa farmers while actively addressing climate challenges. Grassley and Ernst’s support of the Growing Climate Solutions Act, along with that of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, solidifies the importance of voluntary climate-smart agricultural practices.
Now is the time for Congress to embrace market-based environmental solutions that can revive our economy, uplift our farmers and rural communities, and reduce carbon emissions. The Growing Climate Solutions Act is good for the environment and good for agriculture.
I encourage you to reach out to your local member of Congress and share your support for the Growing Climate Solutions Act. It’s time for our country to acknowledge that farmers, ranchers, and forest owners are part of the solution, not part of the problem.