Carbon credits are traded in both compliance and voluntary markets globally. Traditionally, compliance markets have seen more transaction volume of the two. But more recently, as companies and individual actors increasingly seek to offset
emissions, activity in voluntary carbon markets has increased exponentially.1 Correspondingly, the volume of credits generated through forestry and land use activities is growing rapidly, increasing 264% between 2016 and 2018, more than
12 times the increase of other credit types
However, for producers and private forest owners, access to carbon markets is often too difficult and convoluted to achieve wide adoption. Further, the significant demand for land-based climate solutions cannot presently be fully
incentivized by government as political and fiscal constraints in Washington limit the federal government’s ability to be the sole leader in promoting conservation and sustainable land-use practices. Thus, there is an inherent need for
legislation that outlines the appropriate federal role – one that will complement existing efforts, make it easier for producers to participate, and allow the private sector to flourish in meeting market-based demands for carbon credits.
ABOUT THE BILL: The Growing Climate Solutions Act creates a certification program at USDA to help solve technical entry barriers to farmer and forest landowner participation in carbon credit markets. These issues – including access to
reliable information about markets and access to qualified technical assistance providers and credit protocol verifiers- have limited both landowner participation and the adoption of practices to help reduce the costs of developing carbon
To address this, bill establishes a Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program through which USDA will be able to provide transparency, legitimacy, and informal 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 will ensure that these assistance providers have
agriculture and forestry expertise, which is lacking in the current marketplace. As part of the program, USDA will administer a new website, which will serve as a “one stop shop” of information and resources for producers and foresters who
are interested in participating in carbon markets.
Through the program, USDA will help connect landowners to private sector actors who can assist the landowners in implementing the protocols and monetizing the climate value of their sustainable practices. Third party entities, certified
under the program, will be able to claim the status of a “USDA Certified” technical assistance provider or verifier. The USDA certification lowers barriers to entry in the
credit markets by reducing confusion and improving information for farmers looking to implement practices that capture carbon, reduce emissions, improve soil health, and make operations more sustainable.
Today, many third party groups are developing protocols and testing methods to calculate emissions reduction and sequestration in agriculture and forestry. The landscape is evolving rapidly. The Growing Climate Solutions Act recognizes
this fact and provides the Secretary with a robust advisory council composed of agriculture experts, scientists, producers, and others. The advisory council shall advise the Secretary and ensure that the certification program remains relevant,
credible, and responsive to the needs of farmers, forest landowners, and carbon market participants alike.
Finally, the bill instructs USDA to produce a report to Congress to advise about the further development of this policy area including: barriers to market entry, challenges raised by farmers and forest landowners, market performance, and
suggestions on where USDA can make a positive contribution to the further adoption of voluntary carbon sequestration practices in agriculture and forestry.