Testimony offered during a June 24 hearing held by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to consider the recently introduced Growing Climate Solutions Act explains how the bill could benefit the biofuel and bioproducts industries.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act was introduced on June 4 by Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
The legislation aims to break down barriers for farmers and foresters interested in
participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate-smart practices. To do this, it would create a certification program at USDA to help solve technical entry barriers that prevent farmer and forest landowner participation in carbon credit markets. That program, the Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program, would enable the USDA to provide transparency, legitimacy and information endorsement of third-party verifiers and technical service providers that help private landowners generate carbon credits through a variety of agriculture- and forestry-related practices. The USDA certification program would aim to ensure that these assistance providers have agriculture and forestry experience. The agency would also administer a new website that would serve as a one-stop-shop of information and resources for producers and foresters who are interested in participating in carbon markets.
During the hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said the Growing Climate Solutions Act has the potential to improve sustainability throughout the agricultural supply chain by bringing greater value to renewable fuels. She asked Jason Weller, vice president of Truterra LLC, the sustainability business at Land O-Lakes Inc., to explain how providing access to carbon markets for farmers could help drive emissions reductions across the supply chain, including the positive effects on biofuels and biobased products.
Weller said the system of practices anticipated in the legislation to help farmers generate greenhouse gas (GHG) credits would also be the same system and suite of practices ultimately needed by producers of biobased products and biobased energy, including biofuels, who want to participate in state-level low carbon fuel standards. Weller explained that the energy supply chain, including farmers, need to have necessary data to demonstrate GHG savings in order to generate credits under those programs and participate in the low carbon fuels marketplaces. Weller also noted that the credits would help farmers adopt the suite of technologies, conservation practices and new machinery needed to create the GHG reductions that the marketplace is looking for.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., asked witnesses at the hearing to speak to the importance of having accurate up-to-date GHG modeling from the U.S. EPA, especially how it might further support green farming or create trade opportunities.
Brent Bible, a corn and soybean farmer and advisor to the Environmental Defense Fund, said it is vitally important to have that data, whether it comes from the USDA or EPA. He also discussed the damaging impact of the EPA’s misuse of small refinery exemptions (SREs).
Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said it is vitally important to have models that the industry can trust and depend on. He also noted the importance of having accurate data that demonstrates the benefits of programs being utilized on farms.
Thune also addressed the EPA’s inaction on corn fiber-to-ethanol registrations under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, called the EPA the primary barrier to a lot of additional success that could be achieved regarding the reduction of GHG in ethanol technology, particularly on the cellulosic side.
Growth Energy and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization on June 24 issued statements in support of the Growing Climate Solutions Act.
“The importance of today’s discussion cannot be understated,” BIO said in its statement. “Climate change is a threat to agriculture and society. However, innovative, biology-based tools will enable agriculture to adapt and be part of the solution. BIO is a strong supporter of the Growing Climate Solutions Act for the significant positive impact the legislation will have for American farmers, sustainable fuel producers, and biobased manufacturers.
“Through the power of biotechnology, greater amounts of carbon can be sequestered in soil and converted into value-added products providing additional revenue streams for farmers while addressing climate change and encouraging sustainable practices,” BIO continued. “It is time for the United States to work towards a more resilient 21st-century bioeconomy, and this bill is an important step towards that future.
Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, submitted comments for the hearing record stressing that producers and farmer suppliers to the ethanol industry provide significant benefits to the U.S. environment. “With many states and localities increasingly exploring public policy options to lower carbon emissions, the use of biofuels can immediately contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, reduce harmful air toxics, and provide affordable solutions to consumers and lawmakers alike,” Skor wrote. “These benefits are significantly attributed to innovations in agricultural practices like reduced tillage, use of cover crops, and continued ethanol plant innovation.”
“Programs such as the Renewable Fuel Standard as well as the continued expansion of higher biofuel blends like E15 and E85 can advance environmental progress and provide meaningful markets for American agriculture well into the future,” Skor continued. “We hope as your committee continues to explore agriculture’s role in climate policy you will continue to recognize and promote the role of biofuels for our nation’s farmers and consumers now and into the future. Thank you and we look forward to working with you on these important initiatives.”