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Helping Iowa farmers capitalize on their commitment to conservation

By Sen. Joni Ernst

I often share the lessons I learned growing up on my family farm in southwest Iowa. It was a great experience that taught me the value of hard work and lending a helping hand. It left me with a sincere appreciation for the grit and dedication of Iowa’s ag community and the folks across the heartland who wake up before the sun rises each day to help feed and fuel the world.

The work wasn’t always pretty or easy, but my siblings and I gained valuable skills and knowledge that I still carry with me today. Yes, we walked beans and castrated hogs, but we were also taught the importance of caring for and protecting our land. And today, when I’m out on my 99 County Tour, the hardworking Iowa farmers I meet with share these same beliefs.

Iowa’s farmers continue to lead the way on conservation. Whether that’s safeguarding the health of their soil or protecting water quality, they’ve already made tremendous strides in practicing responsible stewardship of their land and farm while promoting a clean environment. But we know there’s more work to do, and I continue to hear from farmers and landowners interested in entering carbon credit markets–another avenue to capitalize on their ongoing commitment to sustainable farming.

In order to dissolve any obstacles standing in the way of farmers wanting to be part of the solution, Senator Chuck Grassley and I are helping lead a bipartisan effort to create a certification program at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help solve entry barriers to participation in carbon credit markets. This includes access to reliable information about markets, qualified technical service providers, and protocol verifiers.

Specifically, the Growing Climate Solutions Act — which has the support of both Democrats and Republicans and the Iowa Pork and Soybean Associations — establishes the Greenhouse Gas Technical Service Provider and Third-Party Verifier Certification Program, allowing USDA to provide transparency, legitimacy, and informal endorsement of third party verifiers. The bill also ensures USDA publishes protocols and standards for existing carbon credit markets widely used across agriculture and forestry; helps connect landowners with the private sector who can assist them with implementing the protocols and monetizing the value of their sustainable practices; and instructs the agency to report to Congress recommendations about the further development of carbon credit markets–including challenges raised by farmers and landowners and market performance.

Just recently, I was proud to help advance this bill out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which Senator Grassley and I serve on, and I’m going to keep pushing to get it across the finish line and onto the president’s desk.

By adopting climate-smart conservation practices like the ones this bill helps promote, we can continue to support Iowa’s agriculture community as they work to protect our environment for generations to come.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican, represents Iowa.

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