Sen. Fischer applauds bill helping farmers enter carbon credit markets

Source: By Grand Island Independent • Posted: Monday, April 26, 2021

Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has reported her committee advanced the Growing Climate Solutions Act.

Fischer is an original cosponsor. The bill would create a certification program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help farmers and ranchers voluntarily enter carbon credit markets.

“Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers are good stewards of our land and effective conservationists,” she said. “This legislation will help them build on the work they are already doing by ensuring they can voluntarily enter into carbon credit markets. I am pleased to see that the Agriculture Committee has advanced this legislation which will further enable ag producers to be part of the climate solution.”

The GCSA, led by Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Ranking Member John Boozman, R-Ark., and Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., creates a certification process at USDA to help solve technical entry barriers to farmer and rancher participation in carbon credit markets.

USDA would certify third party liaisons to help producers monetize sustainable practices. These liaisons would help producers voluntarily enter carbon credit markets and provide information on practices that capture carbon, reduce emissions, improve soil health, and make operations more sustainable.

Gale Lush, of Wilcox, chairman of the American Corn Growers Foundation, said the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act will set up a structure in USDA to help farmers fight climate change by sequestering carbon and accessing carbon markets. He said the legislation is supported by 50 agricultural groups including the National Farmers Union and American Farm Bureau Federation.

“This new legislation is a logical approach by incentivizing farmers to address climate change concerns by storing carbon in the soil,” he said. “Taken together with no-till farming practices and the increased use of ethanol in gasoline to clean the air these multi-pronged strategies will also create jobs and help mitigate the inevitable environmental concerns inherent with the mining of rare earths needed to power electric vehicles and rare metals such as lithium, which are essential for lithium-ion batteries.”

Lush said if the U.S. is going to create new clean energy industries in our own economy beyond ethanol, “We will need to do the extraction mining here rather than importing the rare earths and rare metals and their components from China, Bolivia, Chile or other countries.”

He said storing carbon through modern farming practices while improving the current liquid fuel infrastructure with higher ethanol blends, without needing to replace fuel storage tanks, is a great climate-smart strategy.”

Lush said that according to an April 10, 2019, U.S. Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory report, “Rare Earth Markets and Imbedded Demand,” almost all rare earths are currently being imported and the U.S. imported $2.6 trillion worth of finished products in 2018, including $306.7 billion in vehicles; $386.4 billion in machinery including computers; and $367.1 billion in electrical machinery and equipment.

“This is obviously a tremendous domestic industry and job creation opportunity if the U.S. is willing to go after it,” he said.

Lush said that lithium, for example, is not presently being mined in the U.S. due to environmental concerns. Instead, he said, it has been imported from foreign countries.

“There are huge environmental concerns but if we want to be self-sufficient and create these industries, as part of addressing climate change, we will have to acknowledge the concerns with domestic mining,” Lush said.

He the U.S. has dealt with tradeoffs before and this is not unlike the issues involved with major infrastructure projects such as the interstate highway system, the network of U.S. railroads and the electric grid system that serve the needs of the American society and our economy.

“If the U.S. is going to be serious about having a major electric vehicle fleet, we have to factor in the trade offs,” Lush said. “That makes carbon sequestration and higher ethanol blends even more important as environment friendly tools.”

Dan McGuire, ACGF policy director, said modern farming practices such as no-till planting systems, cover crops, high tech equipment and water-saving irrigation techniques combine to save fuel, reduce soil erosion and help the environment.

“Effective carbon sequestration incentives such as the proposed Growing Climate Solutions Act can facilitate the continuation and expansion of such practices,” McGuire said. “Of major complementary significance is the fact that corn ethanol is an environmentally friendly, octane-enhancing, job-creating economic superstar that offers massive benefits for the rural sector and the American economy overall.”

According to a May 2020 fact sheet from Growth Energy:

• Thanks to ethanol, there are fewer toxic, dirty chemicals in our fuel supply, water and air.

• Biofuels, like ethanol, play a major role in cleaning up our transportation sector and displacing harmful fuel additives, like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) that can be found in petroleum-based fuels.

• USDA data shows that ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 39% or more compared to traditional gasoline, with corn ethanol’s relative carbon benefits reaching as high as 70%.

• Research conducted in five global cities by the University of Illinois at Chicago found that E10 ethanol blends cut toxic emissions by 15.2%, while E20 blends reduce toxins by 31.7%.

• A study done by researchers at the Ford Motor Company found that ethanol blends above 30% cut particle emissions by as much as 45%.

“A national carbon sequestration and carbon market program administered through the USDA, combined with a 30% ethanol blend nationwide, are earth-friendly practices that will create jobs and improve the environment,” McGuire said.