House Republicans introduced a slate of bills Friday they billed as "natural solutions" to climate change and an alternative to Sen. Debbie Stabenow's soon-to-be-reintroduced Growing Climate Solutions Act.
On a call with reporters, Republican Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee and fellow Republicans discussed salvage logging, biochar, soil health and Stabenow’s legislation.
Thompson didn't express any sense or urgency about passing the legislation. “I view these bills as discussion drafts, and look to improve upon these proposals as Congress debates these issues and we do oversight,” he said.
He called the Stabenow legislation “a complex solution in search of a problem. You know, it really emphasizes a lack of technical assistance as a barrier, and I don't see that in all the research that I looked at — a lack of technical assistance is not a barrier to these [carbon] markets.”
“The top three barriers that I think are readily apparent, are the demand for climate credit, the confusion in the marketplace over it, and quite frankly, what can be high transaction costs,” he said.
“I support private ecosystem markets as long as those markets are focused on benefits to the producers,” Thompson said. “I don't think the government should be intervening in those markets, and I don't think we should be using USDA resources to support those markets,” he said.
Thompson’s contribution to the package of four bills is one encouraging private sector funding of USDA conservation initiatives by allowing USDA to match contributions. "It also establishes a procedure by which an entity making a significant contribution may identify the natural resource concern that will be addressed and have a name or brand associated with a project carried out with the use of the contributed funds,” according to a summary of the legislation.
“This bill does provide some naming opportunities,” Thompson said. “It's all part of the marketing that strengthens the brand.”
Several other House Republicans also have legislation aimed at addressing climate concerns.
Rep. Rodney Davis’s bill would create a Soil Health Transition Program, expand the activities of and increase the funding for on-farm conservation innovation trials, and establish a grant program for states and tribes addressing soil health. It also would set up a “special technical assistance initiative for climate change.”
The transition program would authorize USDA to enter into five- to seven-year contracts “in order to provide incentives to adopt “soil health cropping systems” such as reduced tillage. “Under the new program, the secretary shall take into consideration the level of the soil health practice, the cost of its adoption/completion, and income forgone by the producer when determining the level of assistance under the program.”
Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., is introducing a bill to ease National Environmental Policy Act requirements for roadside salvage of “hazard trees.” His bill “establishes a new Categorial Exclusion of unlimited size for activities where the primary purpose is roadside salvage allowing for the removal of hazard trees within 200 feet of a roadway.”
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A bill introduced by Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, who was not on the call, would increase cost-share and practice payments under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program to buy precision agriculture equipment and systems; and incentivize “private sector financing of precision agriculture equipment through the Conservation Loan Guarantee Program and the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program.” It also would provide full funding of precision agriculture projects “through joint participation of conservation cost-share programs and the Conservation Loan Program.”
California Rep. Doug LaMalfa’s bill would require USDA, at the request of a governor, to “select forest landscape projects within a state on which to conduct forest landscape projects.” The selection of the andscaoe would not be subject to NEPA.
Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., talked up his “trillion-tree” legislation and the benefits of biochar as a soil amendment.
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