Senate Committee Moves Carbon Market Bill Backed by Industrial Agriculture Titans Closer to Passage

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 23 Apr 2021 16:55:00 GMT

On Thursday, Earth Day 2021, the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously approved by voice vote the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021 (S. 1251), which would expand voluntary agricultural carbon sequestration markets under private control.

“On Earth Day, our committee came together in a bipartisan way to pass the Growing Climate Solutions Act,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). “This brings us one step closer to providing more opportunities for farmers and foresters to lead in addressing the climate crisis and also benefit from new streams of income.”

The legislation was introduced by Stabenow and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) with the support of the biggest corporations in industrial agriculture, including Cargill, Bayer, McDonald’s, Archer Daniels Midland, General Mills, and Syngenta, as well as Big Ag lobbying groups like the American Farm Bureau and the US Chamber of Commerce. Corporate-funded-and-allied environmental organizations like the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Climate Leadership Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund are also supporting the bill.

Agribusiness has contributed $2,546,199 to Stabenow and $367,483 to Braun over their careers.

The bill now has 42 co-sponsors in the Senate, ranging from climate hawk Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to climate denier Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.).

Companion legislation was introduced yesterday in the House of Representatives by Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.). Agribusiness has contributed $198,675 to Spanberger and $478,040 to Bacon over their careers.

Other original co-sponsors of the House bill are Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Jim Baird (R-Ind.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), and Josh Harder (D-Calif.).

Advocates for small farmers, sustainable agriculture, and aggressive climate action criticized the legislation. In 2020, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Tara Ritter explained how the bill works:

Although farmers should be incentivized to adopt practices that boost resilience and sequester carbon, carbon markets have a failed and wasteful track record compared to public investments in proven conservation programs. This bill would tee up a framework incentivizing false solutions to climate change that benefits private companies over farmers. . .

Voluntary carbon markets are privately-run schemes that pay farmers for carbon sequestered in their soils to generate carbon credits. Then, the company running the carbon market sells those credits to other companies or individuals interested in reducing their carbon footprint. Companies such as Indigo Ag and Nori are starting up voluntary carbon markets, claiming that they will increase farm profits while addressing climate change, all without imposing government regulations on farmers. Yet, Indigo Ag also plans to sell farmers proprietary seed coatings and collect farm data, raising questions of who will benefit most. Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest backers of these schemes are large agribusiness companies, including ADM, Bunge, Cargill and more, that will be able to generate, buy and sell carbon credits to boost their profits and greenwash their own operations.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act sets up a weak verification system for the markets. The system relies on third-party entities to both provide technical assistance and verify the carbon credits. Allowing an entity to both consult on best practices and certify adherence to those practices could lead to conflicts of interest. In addition, verifying entities may self-register in the program simply by notifying USDA that they will “maintain expertise in and adhere to the standards published.” This type of self-reporting will almost certainly be abused, and without strict enforcement it will weaken the results of already flawed carbon markets.

Jason Davidson, Senior Food and Agriculture Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, responded to the committee’s approval of the bill:

We already have policies that will help farmers enhance soil health, protect biodiversity, and combat the climate crisis without perpetuating environmental injustice. Carbon markets have failed to reduce emissions and failed to provide opportunities for America’s family farmers.

Ecologically regenerative farming should be incentivized in addition to, and not instead of, carbon reductions in the energy sector. We should increase incentives for organic transition and heavily invest in existing successful USDA conservation programs while retooling them to help producers sequester carbon. Congress should support existing USDA technical assistance programs rather than outsource them to polluting agribusiness giants like Bayer. Family farmers should be supported in these efforts with structural reforms that ensure fair markets and fair prices, rather than creating more false promises of new markets that will predominantly benefit Big Ag.

“There are better bills on the table to meet the goals of maximizing soil carbon sequestration and reducing emissions from agriculture,” Ritter wrote, “including Representative Chellie Pingree’s (D-Maine) Agriculture Resilience Act and Senator Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) Climate Stewardship Act.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Top Ag Democrat, Opposes Trump USDA Science Nominee Sam Clovis

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 12 Sep 2017 20:43:00 GMT

Sen. Debbie Stabenow; Sam Clovis
In a letter to supporters, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, announced her opposition to President Trump’s nominee to be the top scientist at the Department of Agriculture, Sam Clovis. She highlighted his lack of professional qualifications as well as his “absurd” statements on climate change, LGBTQ issues, and race.

“I’m opposing President Trump’s nomination of Clovis for Chief Scientist in the Department of Agriculture,” Stabenow wrote. “As ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, I oppose his nomination and I call on President Trump to withdraw it immediately. If he does not, I will lead the opposition and promise to bring his troubling record to light.”

Clovis, a right-wing talk show host from Iowa who ran a failed campaign for the Republican Senate nomination and held a senior position in the Trump election campaign, has a long history of prejudicial and anti-science statements. In a 2011 blog post, Clovis called progressives “race traitors.” He believes climate change is “junk science.” He said Trump’s border wall is a “matter of national security and national sovereignty.” Clovis said the science was still out but “as far as we know” homosexuality is a choice.

Clovis helped devise Trump’s Muslim ban, and has claimed that Barack Obama was not born in Honolulu. He called Eric Holder a “racist black,” Tom Perez a “racist Latino,” and claimed that President Obama “wants to enslave all who are not part of his regime.”

Clovis’ positions on agriculture policy are similarly radical: he has consistently opposed federal crop insurance, calling for it to be privatized in a 2014 interview and questioning its constitutionality in a 2013 radio interview.

In July, Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas said at an Agriculture Committee hearing, “If there is some nominee who is coming before the committee who says crop insurance is unconstitutional, they might as well not show up.”

The law requires that the USDA’s Chief Scientist be chosen from “distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.” Clovis has no such experience.

Stabenow joins Democratic senators Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, and Kamala Harris of California in opposition to Clovis. She is the first member of the Agriculture Committee to formally oppose Clovis’ nomination.

A broad and growing coalition of agriculture, climate-justice, environment, science, and civil rights groups have forcefully opposed the Clovis nomination.

Stabenow’s letter is below:

Subject: PETITION: Say no to Sam Clovis
Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:26:08 +0000
From: Debbie Stabenow

We have a right to expect that only the best, most qualified individuals will be nominated for leadership jobs in our government.

That’s not Sam Clovis.

I’m opposing President Trump’s nomination of Clovis for Chief Scientist in the Department of Agriculture.


First, Sam Clovis isn’t a scientist, a qualification required by law to be Chief Scientist in the Department of Agriculture. Clovis himself made this lack of qualification abundantly clear when he stated that he was “extremely skeptical” of proven climate change science.

Second, his absurd statements on LGBTQ issues, race and President Obama totally disqualify him from consideration.

As ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, I oppose his nomination and I call on President Trump to withdraw it immediately. If he does not, I will lead the opposition and promise to bring his troubling record to light.

I won’t shy away from asking the hard questions about his ability to carry out this critically important job for Michigan.

Sign on now and stand with me in telling President Trump to withdraw Sam Clovis’ nomination for Chief Scientist.


Debbie Stabenow United States Senator

Anti-Climate Amendments Under Senate Consideration: McConnell, Rockefeller, Baucus, Stabenow

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 30 Mar 2011 22:16:00 GMT

The small business legislation SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 493), introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), is being used as a vehicle for senators who wish to prevent regulation of greenhouse pollution from oil refineries, coal-fired power plants, heavy industry, and other major emitters. Four amendments, varying from the Upton-Inhofe legislation to prevent any and all action by the Environmental Protection Agency against climate change, to a two-year suspension of climate rules from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), have been introduced. Votes on some combination of the amendments are expected to take place as early as Thursday afternoon.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has introduced amendment 183, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, first introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). The amendment is cosponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). The amendment calls for:
  1. The permanent prohibition on Clean Air Act regulation of greenhouse gases, other than the existing motor vehicle rules
  2. Repeal of the greenhouse gas endangerment finding and reporting requirements
  3. Preventing any future California waiver for tailpipe greenhouse emissions
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) has introduced amendment 215, the EPA Stationary Source Regulations Suspension Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). The amendment calls for:
  1. A two-year suspension of stationary source regulations of carbon dioxide and methane
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has introduced amendment 236, which has three elements:
  1. Forbidding regulation of greenhouse gases from a emitter that doesn’t also produce other regulated air pollution
  2. Codification of the EPA tailoring rule that establishes a 75,000 ton CO2e/year threshold for regulation
  3. Excluding regulation of biofuel emissions related to land-use changes, or any other agricultural activities whatsover
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has introduced amendment 265, which has four elements:
  1. A two-year suspension of stationary source greenhouse gas regulations
  2. Preventing any future California waiver for tailpipe greenhouse emissions
  3. Excluding regulation of biofuel emissions related to land-use changes, or any other agricultural activities whatsover
  4. Allocating $5 billion to the Advanced Energy Project tax credit

Making Green Jobs Good Jobs

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 03 Feb 2009 16:00:00 GMT

Senate Finance Committee member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and House Energy and Commerce Committee member Jay Inslee, D-Wash., will join Laborers’ International Union general president Terence O’Sullivan, Sierra Club political director Cathy Duvall, and clean energy business leaders and workers for a news conference on Tuesday, February 3 at 11 a.m. ET at the United States Capitol to urge Congressional leaders to take bold action to create a new Green American Dream for working people by making sure the newly created green jobs are good jobs that can sustain families and fuel economic recovery.

Speakers will release a new report analyzing the varied quality of existing green jobs (some paying as little as $8.25 an hour), and urge Congress to take bold action to ensure that the major public investments in Congress’ economic recovery and reinvestment plan create a green economy that rebuilds the middle class and renews the American Dream for America’s workers.

The report release comes a day before hundreds of labor, environmental and business advocates go to Capitol Hill — on Wednesday, February 4 — for Green Jobs Advocacy Day to educate lawmakers about the job-creating opportunities that exist in the green economy.

  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
  • Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.
  • Terence O’Sullivan, general pres., LIUNA
  • Cathy Duvall, political dir., Sierra Club
  • Michael Peck, dir. Human Resources, Gamesa
  • Dennis Wilde, Gerding Edlen Development
  • David Foster, exec. dir., Blue Green Alliance
  • Perrette Hopkins, trainee, Garden State Alliance for a New Economy