The most pressing issue of this generation is the climate crisis, and Maryland’s Eastern Shore farmers can play an important role when addressing this problem. Farmers are faced with the impacts of a warming climate, dramatically fluctuating weather and worsening shoreline erosion. According to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the total annual cost of erosion from agriculture in the US is about $44 billion per year. This is where agriculture practices such as no-till, cover crops, rotational grazing, and the application of compost and manure come in.
Often, the agriculture industry is criticized as one of the larger sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. The US EPA calculates global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry, and other land use was 24% of 2010 global greenhouse gas emissions, although this estimate does not include the CO2 that ecosystems remove from the atmosphere by sequestering carbon in biomass, dead organic matter, and soils, which offset approximately 20% of emissions from this sector. Still the industry has an opportunity to do more.
The bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA) (S.1251) was reintroduced in the Senate this session, and in the House on Earth Day. This bill shows us that farmers can be a solution to the climate crisis and potentially thrive while doing so. The GCSA aims to connect farmers with businesses that will pay them for carbon offsets by establishing a website to guide them through the process, technical assistance, and third party verifiers who will confirm that the emissions were reduced or the carbon was stored.
Some farmers around the country have already sold carbon credits in partnership with companies that work with businesses to offset their carbon footprint. GCSA would standardize the process, supporting more farmers with an opportunity to benefit from participating in a carbon marketplace where carbon credits are sold. The bill has support from 49 Senators (24 Republicans, 24 Democrats, and an Independent) and over 70 agriculture and environmental organizations. Some of the agriculture organizations that support it are: the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, American Soybean Association, ConservAmerica, American Farmland Trust, and National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) serves as a voice for agriculture. According to the AFBF, “Government mandates are not the solution, but the government can play a role advancing a voluntary, market-based approach, as demonstrated by the Growing Climate Solutions Act.” The GCSA will help advance agriculture-based solutions to climate change. The partnership between the government and farmers’ participation is voluntary. This act serves as a model for bipartisan climate change legislation. It supports local rural communities and provides more financial opportunities for farmers.
Currently, neither Maryland Senators nor our Eastern Shore House Representative cosponsor the bill, but that could change if they hear from their Maryland constituents. Farmers and community members should reach out to their Representatives and Senators to encourage them to support the Growing Climate Solutions Act. Contact MD01 Representative Andy Harris at 443-944-8624, Senator Ben Cardin at (202) 224-4524, Senator Chris Van Hollen at 202-224-4654 or our write our Senators here.
Chestertown Chapter Group Leader
Citizens’ Climate Lobby