Bloomberg Government subscribers get the stories like this first. Act now and gain unlimited access to everything you need to know. Learn more.
Advocates of helping farmers and ranchers fight the effects of climate change want Congress to invest $2.3 billion over five years in a “soil carbon moonshot,” spying the next round of agriculture negotiations as a potential vehicle for the plan.
As Congress readies the 2023 farm bill, lawmakers including Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), and the climate-focused group Carbon180, are pushing for a coordinated, interagency program housed at the Agriculture Department to advance soil carbon research, education, and technical assistance efforts. Soil is a powerful tool in carbon sequestration, and scientists estimate that soils can absorb about 13% of annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Carbon180, a nongovernmental advocacy group, unveiled recommendations Thursday for policymakers and the administration to boost the agricultural sector’s role in addressing climate change. The proposal aims to make up for years of disinvestment in environment and conservation funding for agriculture programs, said Giana Amador, co-founder and policy director at Carbon180.
The plan, which the group hopes eventually will become bipartisan legislation, would assist farmers and ranchers with research, technical assistance, and incentives to use soil to store carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon-rich soil also can help buffer farmland against extreme weather.
“All of these recommendations are really rooted in the kind of intel and feedback we’ve gotten directly from farmers,” Amador said in a recent interview.
Seeing a ‘Gap’
The proposed $2.3 billion investment over five years across different agencies for a soil carbon moonshot would be divided among 15 recommendations that span research, education, and regular soil assessments, according to the report.
Peters is “actively advocating” for the ideas in the proposal and assessing the best legislative strategy, said his spokeswoman Allie Polaski in an email.
Lawmakers will soon begin work in earnest on the next farm bill, with the current measure (Public Law 115-334) set to expire on Sept. 30, 2023.
Polaski said there are multiple potential legislative vehicles, including the farm bill, stand-alone legislation, and funding through the fiscal 2023 appropriations process. “Rep. Peters is committed to working with his Republican colleagues to adopt effective climate solutions” in the agricultural space, Polaski said.
The bipartisan “Growing Climate Solutions Act” (S.1251) is also a possibility for a broader investment in soil carbon sequestration in the way Peters and Carbon180 envision. The Senate passed that measure in June, while a companion bill is still awaiting action in the House (H.R. 2820). It would provide technical assistance and access to carbon markets to farmers, ranchers, and foresters.
Republicans and Democrats “are really seeing this gap, and this call from their constituents to support them when they need to have these resilience benefits and build soil health and potentially access new markets,” Amador said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kellie Lunney in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org