By Philip Brasher
Farmers warned the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday that ag climate policy can’t leave out producers who have already adopted conservation practices or producers in regions with limited prospects for earning soil carbon credits.
The top Republican on the committee, John Boozman of Arkansas, also made clear that he isn’t sold yet on ag carbon markets, which are a major feature of the policy being pursued by the Biden administration and the committee’s Chair, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
Boozman also expressed concern that House Democrats are talking about using the budget reconciliation process to pass a climate bill without needing GOP votes, similar to what was done with the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday.
“Budget reconciliation has unfortunately become a partisan process that does not take into consideration the views of the minority at all,” Boozman said.
“Climate change poses many complexities for the agriculture sector, and input from the Republican members of this committee should be taken into consideration.”
The Ag committee membership is split 50-50 along party lines.
Members of major farm organizations and a producer representing the Environmental Defense Fund all agreed that farmers could benefit from implementing climate-friendly practices, but several of the producers raised concerns about potential disparities.
One of the major issues is what to do about so-called “early adopters,” farmers who have already been using no-till, cover crops and other practices that sequester carbon in the soil and may not qualify for credits that don’t reward farmers for their existing practices but only for future improvements.
“Right now everybody wants new carbon. Very few companies right now seem willing to pay for any sort of past performance, and there are huge risks with that model,” said Cori Wittman Stitt, an adviser to the Environmental Defense Fund who has a diversified crop and cattle operation in Idaho.
A coalition that includes major farm organizations such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives as well as EDF has recommended the federal government make one-time payments to farmers for practices they are already using.
Clay Pope, a no-till wheat grower in Oklahoma representing NFU, told the committee “there are thousands of producers who have worked for years to improve their land. It would be a horrible mistake not to provide opportunities for these pioneer farmers.”