With the 2023 Farm Bill approaching its final stage of hearings and feedback, the Carbon Business Council (CBC) – an industry organization of carbon management companies – has created a policy brief that outlines a path towards increasing carbon removal by embedding it within agriculture, forestry and aquaculture.
The Farm Bill is an omnibus legislation that covers all aspects of food production and is passed every five years. From programs that deal with soil management to crop insurance, it is the single most impactful bill when it comes to farming.
The bill’s overlap with climate change and carbon dioxide management is also becoming more clearly defined. Toby Bryce, lead author of the brief describes its importance by saying: “The Farm Bill represents a tremendous opportunity for carbon removal because it intersects with so many aspects of carbon management – from agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture conservation practices to research and development dollars.”
The brief focuses attention on how each of the priorities in the 2023 Farm Bill has a role to play when it comes to carbon management.
For farming and agriculture there is soil carbon sequestration, managing crop residues and the use of ground basalt to increase soil alkalinity.
For forestry the onus is on the use of forest residues in biochar, bio-oil and other biomass sequestration activities, as well as reforestation. An important point here is the opportunity to sequester CO2 on National Forest System lands in Class VI wells, an overlap with the carbon capture industry which is also set to use these wells for storing industrial emissions.
Aquaculture is also included, with the potential of algae as food, fertilizer and as a fossil-fuel substitute highlighted. Well known approaches as the restoration of seagrass and mangroves are also included alongside brand new methods like ocean alkalinity enhancement.
Some of the main CBC recommendations for targeting the three areas are:
- Streamlining the application process for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) incentive payments for farmers and ensuring the disbursal of funds through the Inflation Reduction Act.
- Creating a Soil Carbon Monitoring Network (an initiative of carbon removal NGO Carbon180) to scale the USDA’s ability to measure and model soil carbon.
- The creation of conservation practice standards by the NRCS, which will allow farmers to qualify for direct payments from a variety of programs that are already designed to replace burning of crop and forest residues
“The recommendations in the policy brief are aimed at accelerating the growth of the carbon removal sector, while also creating new economic opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and foresters via the range of carbon removal approaches that can be applied to U.S. ‘s working lands and forests,” says Toby Bryce.
With less than 5% of cover crops currently designed to capture carbon and only 1% of farmers taking advantage of carbon credits, the 2023 Farm Bill has the potential to provide a much needed boost to CO2 reduction through its multipronged approach but will also create economic opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and foresters through agroforestry, biochar carbon removal and other BiCRS like blue carbon according to Bryce.
Sebastian Mahnart, Senior Policy Advisor at Carbonfuture – an end-to-end platform for scaling durable carbon removal credits – and part of the working group behind the policy brief also echoed its importance: “The Farm Bill is a powerful tool to support carbon dioxide removal, while also supporting the wellbeing of farmers, ranchers, foresters, and all those who work in agriculture. The recommendations in the Carbon Business Council’s Farm Bill policy brief provide a pathway forward for the economy and the environment.”