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Ranking Member Stabenow Opening Statement at the Growing Climate Solutions Act Hearing

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today released the following opening statement at the legislative hearing to review S. 3894, the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020.

Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman for holding today's important hearing.

Our world has changed drastically since the last time this committee met. The COVID-19 crisis has affected every family in America. It has also tested the resiliency of our food supply and the strength of our farmers.

During this crisis, Congress has worked to address the countless challenges facing our food system. While we have passed several important relief packages, there is still more to do. Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you to pass additional legislation that supports our families, farmers, and essential food workers in these difficult times.

We should also look for ways to support and fill in the gaps that remain in our supply chain such as those included in my Food Supply Protection Act, which I introduced earlier this year.

As we continue to address these urgent challenges, this crisis has also underscored the importance of providing long-term stability for our farmers who face uncertainty every day.

I often say that agriculture is the riskiest business there is. Farmers know all too well how a sudden shift in the weather can change everything in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, the climate crisis has caused these extremes to happen more and more often.

While farmers are uniquely affected by the climate crisis, they are also an important part of the solution. With the right support, our producers can cut down on their emissions and benefit from the adoption of practices to store more carbon in soil and trees. This is good for the environment and good for a farmer’s bottom line.

The 2018 Farm Bill created new opportunities for climate-smart agriculture, including the landmark Soil Health Demonstration trials. However, much more is needed.

That’s why Senator Braun and I introduced the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act to help farmers and foresters scale up sustainable practices and make money through voluntary carbon markets. In the coming days, Representative Spanberger and Representative Bacon will introduce the bipartisan bill in the House.

Carbon markets offer agricultural producers an opportunity to create additional revenue streams. With all the uncertainty from COVID-19, trade, and weather, farmers need new market opportunities now more than ever.

At the same time, companies across the country are looking for ways to offset their emissions through carbon markets. That means farmers and foresters have an exciting opportunity to be rewarded for the voluntary, sustainable steps they are taking through generating and selling carbon credits.

For example, Detroit’s own General Motors paid for an agricultural carbon project like this based on grasslands in North Dakota a few years ago – one of the first of its kind. Our bill will help the corn and soybean farmer in Michigan who is hearing about companies like GM that want to pay farmers to store carbon, but doesn’t know where to get started.

That’s where the Growing Climate Solutions Act comes in. The bill will set up a certification program at the USDA that will identify trusted outside experts for farmers to work with to help them through the carbon credit process. This will jumpstart climate-smart projects on farms, ranches, and private forests all across the country.

Producers can easily navigate a new, one-stop-shop on USDA’s website where they can learn about carbon markets and the types of practices farmers can adopt to get paid. USDA-certified technical assistance providers can help farmers decide what practices will work for them. After the practices are in place and a USDA-certified third party verifies that they followed all the appropriate procedures, they can enter the marketplace and sell carbon to a private buyer. 

In order to start addressing the climate crisis in agriculture, I believe we need to focus first on voluntary, producer-led, and bipartisan policies that have broad support.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act has the support of over 50 farm and environmental groups, including the American Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union, Land O’Lakes, and the Environmental Defense Fund, whom will be sharing their perspectives today.

Mr. Chairman, we have received letters and testimony from numerous companies and organizations expressing support for the bill. I ask that all of these be submitted for the record.

Our farmers know that sustainability and profitability go hand in hand. This bill will help farmers improve their operations and build new revenue streams, all while addressing the root cause of the climate crisis.

I look forward to discussing this commonsense, bipartisan bill today and continuing to work with the Chairman and my colleagues to see it enacted as soon as possible.

Thank you.