Senate Passes Bill Aimed At Helping U.S. Agriculture Reduce Emissions

On Thursday, the United States Senate approved a bill known as the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021, which authorizes a program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address harmful emissions and benefit agriculture. The measure passed with a vote of 92-8 and will be sent next to the House of Representatives.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman and co-sponsor of the bill, explained in a press release that the legislation is designed to give resources and incentives to help farmers participate in conservation efforts.  In addition to addressing the environment, the sponsors also anticipate the bill will generate new sources of income.

“Climate change is affecting Michigan farmers, foresters, and rural communities at every turn. Right now, 90 percent of Michigan is in a drought, and whether it’s the early thaws and freezes that have hurt our cherry crop, the flooding that is eroding our shoreline, or the pests that harm our forests, Michigan producers are looking for solutions,” said Senator Stabenow in the press release. “The Growing Climate Solutions Act provides the resources and expertise to help our growers address this crisis.”

Stabenow reported that over 175 food, agricultural, and environmental organizations and companies expressed support for this bill. The bill is meant to be a step in helping American agriculture reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture is currently responsible for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to Successful Farming.

Under the Growing Climate Solutions Act, the USDA will provide aid helping farmers work in the carbon market and earn additional money while helping the environment.

The senators who opposed the bill, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), argued that the bill inserts the government into the carbon market, which is already flourishing without the help. “Though it aims to help small farmers to participate in this market,” Lee said, “it could easily be manipulated to demand USDA set protocols and qualifications.”