EcoEngineers’ resident farmer reflects on Growing Climate Solutions Act
The following is an opinion article published in the Des Moines Register on Sept. 22, 2021.
Opinion: Agriculture’s voluntary action on carbon and sustainability is leading the way
By Mark Heckman, Iowa Farmer and EcoEngineers Senior Regulatory Consultant
Carbon reduction has been at the forefront of the conversation throughout practically all agriculture circles lately. For many of us, we have been investing in climate-smart farming practices for decades. It’s encouraging to see policymakers and the broader public beginning to recognize agriculture’s commitment and ability to sequester carbon and our capacity to be a major part of the overall solution.
A recent bipartisan achievement in Congress demonstrates momentum for these efforts. The Growing Climate Solutions Act passed in the Senate this summer with broad support, with 54 cosponsors split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats. Our own Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst helped build support to get this legislation through the Senate.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act, if adopted, would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist farmers who want to participate in emerging carbon markets, and standardize how producers can self-certify under the programs. Importantly, it keeps participation voluntary, while providing some much-needed structure around these carbon markets.
On my own operation we’ve practiced no-till and used cover crops, saturated buffer strips, and many more on-the-field practices that are proven to naturally sequester carbon.
Even more encouraging, the reduction in CO2 emissions is not the only advantage. Incentivizing greater adoption of these practices means layering the co-benefits of improved soil health, water quality, and greater yields.
It’s important we get this right at the farmer level. We need to be able to accurately verify these practices, and make sure the producers putting in the investment are able to see the financial benefit. I’ve been passionate about improving the sustainability of our farm for years, as I view it as my responsibility to leave the land in better shape for my son and following generations. This is a charge I take seriously, and the farmers I work with across the state share this sentiment.
We’re also seeing larger scale carbon capture and sequestration systems being proposed across the Midwest that will help biorefineries and other industries drastically curb their CO2 emissions. These projects will have the ability to drastically lower the carbon intensity from our value-added ag processes on a massive scale.
As the conversation around carbon advances, one thing is certain. It’s important to ensure climate policy remains voluntary and market-driven. I encourage members of the House to follow the Senate’s lead to work in a bipartisan manner to create responsible policy that protects the environment and the farmers on the frontline of these initiatives.
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Mark Heckman is an EcoEngineers Senior Regulatory Consultant and sustainable farm practices expert. As a farmer in a family partnership of approximately 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans in West Liberty, Iowa, he is an agricultural leader with a focus on soil health and sustainable farming practices. He is a member of the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Global Farmer Network. For more information about sustainable farm practices, low-carbon fuels, or EcoEngineers, contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.