Bill to Subsidize Sustainable Agriculture “Prime Contender” for Reconciliation Package

The Growing Climate Solutions Act would help farmers and foresters participate in carbon credit markets. Its opponents say it doesn’t go far enough.


Sara Sirota and Ryan Grim, The Intercept

July 21 2021


A bipartisan measure to boost carbon credit markets is a “prime contender” to be in the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., told The Intercept. But its inclusion in the simple-majority process would put Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and other critics in the awkward position of supporting a bill they already voted against.


The Growing Climate Solutions Act, or S. 1251, aims to help farmers and foresters more easily participate in carbon credit markets. It would establish a program at the Department of Agriculture to certify technical experts who can assist landowners implementing carbon capture, emission-reduction measures, and other sustainability methods by planting fast-growing crops such as hemp. Championed by Whitehouse and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the Growing Climate Solutions Act has received the endorsement of the American Farm Bureau Federation and Environmental Defense Fund and passed the Senate in a 92-8 vote just last month.


Sanders, along with Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., voted against the bill. Broadly speaking, opponents argued that the measure was at best a distraction from the necessary work of reducing emissions and at worst could prolong the strength of the fossil fuel industry. “I don’t believe that an offset system that subsidizes corporations’ continued pollution in front-line communities is the best strategy,” Merkley said at the time of the vote. “Let’s set incentives that reduce pollution in both agriculture and front-line neighborhoods.”


Advocates of the bill argue that time has run out, and Democrats can’t afford to leave any tool that could reduce carbon concentration on the sidelines. Carbon concentration has reached 418 parts per million, well over the 350 ppm that scientists say is a threshold the planet needs to remain under.


Whether portions of S. 1251 and other climate crisis bills are eligible to pass...