Senate Ag Committee Hearing

Jun 25, 2020

The Senate Ag Committee this week passed by unanimous consent the United States Grain Standards Reauthorization Act of 2020. Earlier this week, ASA and other ag groups sent a letter to Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow in support of the reauthorization, stating it would, “maintain confidence in our inspection system, which is a key element of our success in export markets.”

The Committee also heard testimony about The Growing Climate Solutions Act, which ASA and more than 50 other agricultural stakeholders have endorsed. The bill, sponsored by Ranking Member Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Braun (R-IN),  will “create new producer-friendly resources at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will help farmers and foresters scale up sustainable practices and tap into new economic opportunities through voluntary carbon markets.” The main provision of the bill would establish a USDA certification program for the private parties that farmers hire in order to generate and ultimately sell their carbon credits.

Senators and witnesses attended the hearing either in person or remotely. One interesting note was that several senators came in person to deliver their opening statements but then returned to their offices and asked their questions of the witnesses remotely. This is a complete departure from the way the Senate has ever conducted business.

A few recurring themes from the hearing were about the importance of knowledge and data and the need for USDA to help with credible research and information sharing about conservation practices and new carbon markets. Some senators raised concerns about the costs of adopting or verifying practices for farmers who want to participate. Others highlighted that rural broadband connectivity would likely need to play a role in this effort.

Another theme at the hearing was the financial opportunity for producers that this legislation and other carbon credit programs may create. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall underscored that this bill would create access to new markets for farmers and reiterated support for the proposal.

Senators generally were positive about the idea of agriculture generating climate benefits, and both Republicans and Democrats spoke of the challenge of climate change. Jason Weller from TruTerra referenced the importance of the legislation to the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, of which ASA is a member.

The biggest non-climate topic raised at the hearing was widespread condemnation of EPA for their handling of the Renewable Fuel Standard and willingness to issue waivers to oil companies.