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politico – In rare bipartisan move, Senate approves bill to help farmers cash in on climate action

The bill, titled Growing Climate Solutions Act, S. 1251 (117), seeks to clarify an increasing number of carbon credit programs that have arisen, which has created a confusing landscape for farmers who voluntarily participate in them. The bill allocates $ 4 million over four years to help the effort.

“This allows the USDA to provide legitimacy to reputable players in the market,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Co-author of the bill said Thursday.

Agriculture Senate Speaker Debbie Stabenow, one of the bill’s main supporters, had worked tirelessly to resolve a handful of deadlocks on the bill in recent days. She said Thursday the overall goal was to get farmers to work with the USDA “to design a carbon market that works for them, not Wall Street.”

By the time the bill was introduced Thursday, it had 55 co-sponsors – an unusually large, two-party list that was almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

During a press conference after the passage, Braun highlighted comments he said he received from young conservatives, church groups and various farmers interested in helping tackle climate change.

Voluntary exchange programs show “that people are ready, ready to put their money where they say they have been to try to reverse what is happening for the environment, our atmosphere and the climate in general. “Braun said. “We’re in a good position and I think it’s a start.”

The legislation is supported by a broad coalition of outside groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, an organization that has long opposed federal climate legislation, and large environmental groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and Nature Conservancy.

While the bill enjoys broad support, it has also been criticized by some on the left for focusing on offsets instead of forcing emissions cuts or other changes on agriculture. These critics have argued that without proper regulation, carbon markets will ultimately be a greenwashing exercise for big business.

Senator Cory Booker (DN.J.) was one of the few who voted against the bill, but his office said he would work with Stabenow on how to implement the program.

“There are smallholder farmer and environmental justice issues with the bill as is,” said Veronica Duron, Booker’s chief of staff..

Key amendment tanks: A controversial amendment by Senator Mike Lee that sought to remove the creation of a certification program at USDA and remove language aimed at helping socially disadvantaged and underserved farmers failed 89-11.

On the ground, Lee argued that the legislation would eventually hamper emerging private sector markets. “The federal government should step down,” he said.

And after: There is a companion bill in the House sponsored by Reps Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) And Don Bacon (R-Neb.), But it has so far been unsuccessful and the way forward. is not clear.

Representative GT Thompson (R-Pa.), A leading member of the House agriculture committee, criticized the legislation, calling it “a big government solution looking for a problem.”

“The consequences of the government’s intrusion into voluntary carbon markets have not been sufficiently explored and Congress should continue to educate itself and consider these issues before legislating,” he said in a statement afterwards. the adoption of the bill by the Senate.

Stabenow told reporters she had mainly focused on getting into the Senate and had yet to have conversations with her House counterparts. She added that she would start these talks and was “confident” that it could be adopted by the lower house.

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