The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a landmark hearing this week on a bipartisan plan to accelerate the development of agricultural carbon markets, and the panel also is set to act on a measure to reauthorize federal grain standards and export inspections.

The Growing Climate Solutions Act , whose sponsors include the committee’s top Democrat, Debbie Stabenow, and GOP committee member Mike Braun of Indiana, is intended to provide legitimacy and transparency to ag carbon trading by establishing a USDA-run system for certifying third-party verifiers and technical service providers. 

The hearing will lay the groundwork for potentially passing the legislation as part of a larger bill in the next Congress. 

In addition to the hearing, the committee also will vote on a bill to reauthorize the Grain Standards Act. The existing authorization law, which passed in 2015 and included provisions to ensure export inspections continued during labor disruptions, expires Sept. 30. The law requires, among other things, that USDA take immediate steps to address disruptions of inspection and weighing services . 

The wheat  industry wants to see a “smooth, bipartisan reauthorization” of the 2015 law, said Steve Mercer, a spokesman for U.S. Wheat Associates, the industry’s export development arm. 

Also this week, Monday is the deadline for groups representing farmers that are ineligible for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments to file comments with USDA, making the case for being added to the program. 

More than 1,200 comments had been posted at as of Friday. 

Groups and farmers making a request for CFAP assistance range from major commodities such as wheat, apples and liquid whole eggs to products such as clams, coffee, and quail. 

Brittney Miller, who owns a quail farm in South Carolina, told USDA that she has lost sales of $700,000 since January. “We have 100 families that rely on this farm,” said wrote. 

The National Association of Wheat Growers filed comments earlier this month arguing that all classes of wheat should be eligible for CFAP payments. Soft red winter wheat, hard red winter wheat and white wheat are currently ineligible for payments. 

USDA’s weekly report released June 15 showed that farmers nationwide had received $2.9 billion of the $16 billion that is expected to be distributed eventually.

As for the ag carbon bill, Braun said in a recent interview with Agri-Pulse that farmers are increasingly interested in the climate issue and carbon markets. 

“They’re looking for ways to maybe do things differently,” Braun said. “They’ve also been gauging weather. It seems to be a little out of sync with what it used to be, regardless of the reasons. A good steward of the land ought to be rewarded. There are markets that will do that.” 

The witnesses at Wednesday’s Senate hearing will include leaders of the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union, which are backing the bill, as well as Brent Bible, an Indiana farmer and adviser to the Environmental Defense Fund, who argued in an op-ed for Agri-Pulse that the revenue from ag carbon credits would help farmers deal with the vagaries of commodity markets. 

The bill "would simplify and standardize the certification process for generating credits and help farmers realize more returns on their investments in credit-worthy practices,” Bible wrote. 

Many companies and groups are developing protocols for calculating the reductions in carbon emissions provided by agricultural practices ranging from no-till farming to methane capture. Multinational corporations are expected to increase their demand for the credits as they try to meet commitments for reducing their carbon footprint.

Also this week, major farm groups have scheduled an online press announcement on Tuesday about a free online training course for the public on farm stress management. 

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The program was developed by extension services at Michigan State University and the University of Illinois and is supported by the Farm Credit System, American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union. 

Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:

Monday, June 22

10 a.m. - Chicago Council on Global Affairs webinar, “Building Better, More Resilient Food Systems.”

4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report. 

Tuesday, June 23

11 a.m. - House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2123 Rayburn.

Wednesday, June 24

10 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Committee meeting to consider reauthorization of the Grain Standards Act and hearing to consider the Growing Climate Solutions Act, G50 Dirksen.

10 a.m. - Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on the Federal Communications Commission, 253 Russell.

Thursday, June 25

8:30 a.m. - USDA releases the Weekly Export Sales report. 

9 a.m. - USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook

9:30 a.m. - Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on Customs and Border Protection, 562 Dirksen.

 10 a.m. - Commodity Futures Trading Commission open meeting

Friday, June 26

Noon - Heritage Foundation webinar, “The Meat Supply During the Pandemic and Beyond."

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