U.S. Senators Tina Smith, Todd Young Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Farmers, Combat Climate Change

WASHINGTON, D.C. [7.11.23] – Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced bipartisan legislation that will help combat climate change and improve agricultural resilience and productivity.

Experts estimate that American farmers could store up to 220 billion pounds of carbon annually across all US croplands. The Advancing Research on Agricultural Climate Impacts Act will bolster our understanding of soil carbon sequestration and help farmers enhance soil health, make their operations more resilient, and combat climate change.

“Farmers in Minnesota don’t need to be told climate change is happening, they see it every year in the form of harsher droughts, more powerful storms and heatwaves. We need to be doing everything we can to combat this crisis and help farmers adapt to the changing climate,” said Senator Smith. “This bipartisan legislation would help farmers by funding new research to improve our understanding of soil carbon storage potential on agricultural land to inform best practices and help make farms more resilient. It’s a win for farmers and our climate. I’ll continue working hard to get it passed.”

“Hoosier farmers and producers feed our communities, drive our economy, and play a critical role in our supply chains. This bipartisan legislation will equip and empower our agriculture sector to choose the best climate smart practices for their individual operations,” said Senator Young. “The bill would not only foster the adoption of beneficial soil practices, but also fortify the resilience and prosperity of our agricultural needs for generations to come.”

The Advancing Research on Agricultural Climate Impacts Act will catalyze soil carbon sequestration by directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to:

  • Develop consistent and standardized soil carbon measurement methodologies based on the best available science and in consultation with producers, soil carbon scientists, and diverse stakeholder groups,
  • Leverage the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to develop new tools to measure, monitor, report, and verify greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration,
  • Conduct on farm demonstrations to improve producer understanding and adoption of soil carbon sequestration practices,
  • Establish a Soil Carbon Inventory and Analysis Network led by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to inventory, monitor, and analyze soil carbon and greenhouse gas changes on agricultural land over time, and
  • Develop modeling tools grounded in direct measurements and the best available science that allow users to estimate changes in soil carbon and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from implementing conservation management practices.

This legislation is supported by the American Bird Conservancy,  American Dairy Science Association, American Malting Barley Association, Bipartisan Policy Center Action, Carbon180, Climate Land Leaders, Farm Bill Law Enterprise, Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS), Harvest Sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture Initiative, Indigo Ag, Kiss the Ground, Minnesota Farmers Union, Mycobacterial Diseases of Animals – Multistate Initiative, National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, North American Millers’ Association, Northern Plains Research Council,  Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, Perennial Climate Inc., Regenerate America, Regrow Ag, Rural Voices Conservation Coalition, Soil Health Institute, Soul Fire Farm, Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors, Spark Climate Solutions, TerraCarbon, the Breakthrough Institute,  University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Union of Concerned Scientists, US Dairy Forage Research Center Stakeholder Committee, Woodwell Climate Research Center, and Yard Stick PBC.

“Senator Smith’s vision for the Advancing Research on Agricultural Climate Impacts Act can help radically transform agriculture’s relationship to climate change by making critical investments in soil carbon sequestration,” said Cristel Zoebisch, deputy director of policy at Carbon180. “This legislation recognizes that American farmers and ranchers are managing their land and feeding the country while at the frontlines of climate change, and offers regionally-relevant data insights and on-the-ground support to retool long-standing practices. Critically, this legislation makes measuring soil carbon more transparent, accurate, and accountable to climate benefits. We believe this legislation can help usher in the next generation of soil carbon measurement tools, so farmers and ranchers can showcase their contributions to climate mitigation.”

“Soils, and the farmers that manage them, can play an important role in fighting climate change. But without strategic federal investments in conducting soil carbon research, standardizing soil carbon sampling methods, and developing better tools to help farmers predict the impact of new practices, the role of soils will be limited,” said Haley Leslie-Bole, World Resources Institute. ” the Advancing Research on Agricultural Climate Impacts Act will help to build certainty and trust in the potential of soils to sequester more carbon and contribute to climate action.”

“Healthy and resilience agricultural landscapes ensure American producers can generate the foods, fiber, and fuels needed to drive our economy. What’s more, these soils can store vast quantities of carbon as plants draw CO2 from the air,” said Michele Stockwell, President of Bipartisan Policy Center Action.  “We applaud Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Todd Young’s (R-IN) Advancing Research on Agricultural Climate Impacts Act, which directs USDA to systematically assess soil carbon across the country. This standardized approach is essential to improving our understanding of our farming landscapes and the vital economic, environmental, and climate benefits they provide.”

“The Advancing Research on Agricultural Climate Impacts is needed legislation to advance innovation in soil carbon sequestration,” said Chris Tolles, Co-Founder and CEO of Yard Stick PBC. “The legislation recognizes the need to establish a unified soil data taxonomy, bolster soil carbon MRV research, and equip producers with accurate and robust soil carbon data to inform their management decisions.”

“We understand intuitively that natural systems are the gold standard for sequestering carbon, since that is how it has happened through time immemorial,” said Steven Riley, Director of Farm Bill Policy for American Bird Conservancy. “Without good science, we can only speculate as to how much and under what conditions carbon is best captured and stored.”

You can read more about the legislation here.