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Oppose Farmer-unfriendly Carbon Market in Senate Climate Bill

Chrys Ostrander

This action alert concerns a Friends of the Earth campaign-- endorsed by farmers-- to oppose the carbon markets proposals contained in the Senate's Growing Climate Solutions Act.

There is an organizational sign-on letter. If you are part of an organization concerned about climate change and/or agricultural policy, please have your organization sign on. The sign-on period is open until Friday, 9/25. >> Go to the Sign on Letter.

Otherwise, contact your congressional delegation by phone or email.

From the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: "[On June 4,] Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mike Braun (R-IN) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) introduced the Growing Climate Solutions Act, a bill that would create a certification program through USDA to facilitate farmer participation in voluntary carbon markets. Although farmers should be incentivized to adopt practices that boost resilience and sequester carbon, carbon markets have a failed and wasteful track record compared to public investments in proven conservation programs. This bill would tee up a framework incentivizing false solutions to climate change that benefits private companies over farmers." Read full article.

New York organic farmer Elizabeth Henderson, member of Northeast Organic Farming Association-NY: “As a farmer, I reject solutions like carbon markets that leave power in the hands of the same corporations that have led us to the current farm crisis. We need public policy that incentivizes soil health, encouraging farmers to implement ecological systems based in healthy soils practices and the ecosystem services that come with them, like reducing erosion, building farm resilience to climate extremes, and increasing soil carbon.”

From Patti Naylor, Iowa Regenerative Farmer: "I also encourage everyone to sign on to this letter. As a farmer in Iowa, I can see that this bill will not help farmers struggling with volatile prices on the free market, will not reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions, and will only benefit the corporations that are supporting this false solution. Two other organizations that have spoken out against the bill are National Family Farm Coalition and Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy."

From Friends of the Earth:

Friends if the Earth is circulating this in partnership with Climate Justice Alliance, Food and Water Watch and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. We currently have over 200 signatories including: the National Family Farmers Coalition, Indigenous Environmental Network, Family Farm Defenders, California Environmental Justice Alliance, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Fair World Project, Farmworker Association of Florida, Northeast Organic Farming Association, Organic Consumers Association, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, among others.

I want to state upfront that we support efforts to help farmers transition to ecologically regenerative agriculture. We support expanding conservation programs that will pay farmers to do so.

We oppose the Growing Climate Solutions Act for many reasons. This bill would facilitate participation in soil carbon markets. Carbon markets have been historically gamed to benefit polluters while failing to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions. By allowing polluters to buy the right to pollute, they have exacerbated pollution hotspots, which disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color due to their proximity to large industrial polluters.

From the agricultural perspective, soil carbon markets will, in all likelihood, predominantly benefit the largest producers. In addition, the bill’s corporate backers (the likes of which include Bayer, Syngenta and Corteva), will almost certainly require farmers to participate in chemically intensive no-till systems to generate credits.

More information on why this is a false solution:

Example of true solutions:

We believe there are far better policies to support farmers in adopting regenerative practices--including increased funding for conservation, research, extension, local food economies,  beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer, just transition and conservation compliance programs (providing TA and requiring healthy soil practices in exchange for generous subsidies).

Further reading:

Information on the bill and its House companion is available through

September, 2020