Legislation to help lower the barriers that prevent farmers, ranchers and forest landowners from participating in carbon credit markets has gained broad support in agricultural circles. But it is not without opposition.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act would create a certification program at USDA for third-party verifiers and technical service providers that help producers and forest landowners earn carbon credits.
The legislation has cleared the Senate Agriculture Committee and was introduced in the House on Thursday.
But one farm organization is strongly opposed to the legislation, saying it would only benefit agribusiness corporations and do little for the environment.
“We know there is a very large number of agricultural organizations that are in support,” Joe Maxwell, president and CEO of Farm Action Fund and a Missouri farmer, told Capital Press.
Farm Action Fund describes itself on its website as “a coalition of farmers, workers, local businesses and organizations building the ‘political muscle’ to take on abusive corporate monopoly power.”
It was not an easy decision to oppose the bill, but it is not the right direction for family farmers, Maxwell said.
“Those that will benefit are those that are already in the business of verifying carbon capture and the polluters,” he said.
Agribusinesses that stand to benefit the most from carbon credits also have a hand in the companies buying and selling credits to third parties. They are determining what carbon sequestration is and telling farmers how to farm, he said.
“They will hold all the cards,” he said.
USDA needs to be regulating climate-solution practices and needs to be the owner of the carbon credit bank. But this bill would have USDA sanctioning those companies, and those companies will have a monopoly, he said.
If USDA is granting monopolies, there needs to be antitrust standards like there are in the telephone and utilities sectors, he said, but this bill is silent on those standards.
This will lead to agribusiness companies telling farmers “you farm this way and we will give you a credit for those practices” with no guarantee that credit will have any value for the farmers, he said.
“Farmers could end up with contracts for how they will farm, but it doesn’t guarantee any value or what farmers would be paid,” he said.
“Farmers don’t need another monopoly like poultry — and it being sanctioned by USDA,” he said.
Farm Action Fund strongly agrees farmers can be part of the climate change solution, but the carbon credits under the proposed bill will be owned and sold by third parties, he said.
Another problem is that a plant or concentrated animal feeding operation, some owned by the third-party agribusiness that are associated with the verifiers, can purchase credits and continue to pollute, he said.
“This doesn’t do anything to stop the polluters,” he said.
If they’re not eliminating carbon emissions, they shouldn’t be eligible for carbon credits, he said.
“This is being supported by a lot of folks because everybody thinks they’re going to make a lot of money,” he said.
But the benefit will go to the agribusiness corporations, and there’s no evidence it will actually reduce emissions, he said.
Farmers have been here before when “big ag” comes in with a scheme for new profits and says “just trust us,” he said.
“This bill only sets up a trap for farmers. Government needs to have some safeguards in place, and this bill has none,” he said.