USDA to help farmers navigate the murky world of soil carbon offsets

Read the full story at Grist.

When Congress passed an omnibus spending bill in December, it included a bit of bipartisan climate legislation that had been languishing on the Hill since its introduction in 2020. The Growing Climate Solutions Act, supported by climate advocates and farmers alike, was devised to get the nation’s growers to adopt climate-friendly practices by encouraging their participation in the carbon market. 

The bill’s backers hope the law will make it easier for farmers and landowners to get paid for storing carbon in their fields and forests. Farmers have struggled to navigate the complex web of companies offering to help them sell carbon credits, and have been confused by the number of different standards that exist for measuring carbon. They’re also worried about being fairly compensated.

But it’s unclear how the law will address farmers’ biggest concerns. A U.S. Department of Agriculture program created by the legislation may help by disseminating information and bringing some federal scrutiny to the unregulated credit market. Yet it does nothing to address key questions about the underlying science of soil carbon sequestration, and whether carbon offsets are even an effective way to incentivize it.

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