Agricultural practices have the potential to address climate change by sequestering carbon, witnesses told a House subcommittee Thursday at a hearing focused on regenerative agriculture and ag technology.
David Potere, head of GeoInnovation at Indigo Agriculture, outlined how his company is creating a new market for a different type of crop: carbon. The company, which was founded in 2014, has begun an initiative to sequester 1 trillion tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide in farmland around the world, and through Indigo Carbon is offering farmers the opportunity to get paid for increasing the carbon content of their soil.
“Bringing farmers into the solution … can be a definitive part of the solution for climate change because of the potential of ag soils to absorb carbon,” Potere told members of the House Innovation and Workforce Development Subcommittee.
Potere pointed to the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008, which contains a provision allowing oil companies to receive a tax incentive for carbon sequestration when they pull oil out of the ground. The way the act is currently written, farmers don't get the same incentive.
“If there is broad bipartisan support for federal policy that incentivizes corporate, industrial and energy producers to sequester carbon, why can’t the same support be there when farmers try and do the same?” Potere said.
When asked about other ways growers can employ ag technology to make their farms more sustainable, witnesses offered a variety of suggestions.
Roberto Meza, co-founder of Emerald Gardens Microgreens in Bennett, Colo., touted the importance of channeling funding into regenerative agriculture practices to help develop innovative models for producing food.
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Kevin France, president and CEO of SWIIM Systems in Denver, said instead of asking the government to create something new, it should make programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program more accessible to farmers.
Douglas Jackson-Smith, professor and assistant director of the school of environment and natural resources at Ohio State University, brought up the missed opportunity and regulatory hurdles surrounding genetic engineering. He said there are many technologies that could benefit farmers and consumers but haven’t had the opportunity to enter the marketplace because of the current regulatory process set in place on genetic engineering.
Witnesses and members of Congress also used the occasion to call for improved rural connectivity. Subcommittee chairman Jason Crow, D-Colo., called connectivity “the backbone of ag tech," noting the ability of broadband to make it possible for farmers to aggregate and analyze data in real time. He emphasized the need for greater deployment of high-speed internet in rural communities to help ag technology thrive.
Potere commented on the impact rural broadband access has had on his company, saying Indigo has had to build mobile technology that is resilient to the lack of internet connectivity. Creating this technology for farmers has required Indigo to increase its development cost, something Potere said puts unnecessary financial pressure on the company, especially when a simple solution such as rural broadband already exists. Farmers, he said, just lack access to it.
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