After the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made clear that developing a carbon bank is a priority, industry groups are recommending a measured approach. The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA) has suggested establishing pilot projects to lay the groundwork for a fully functioning carbon program. Many in the agriculture industry have been supportive of voluntary carbon markets, but some criticisms have been made regarding access to participate.
“Information gained from the pilots should be used by USDA to work with Congress and stakeholders to create a durable foundation for a carbon bank,” the group states in its specific recommendations. “When developing the program, USDA should mitigate potential market impacts and ensure that the program is not overly complicated or burdensome. It should also leverage private investment for agricultural and forest land-based carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission reductions.”
FACA has identified four areas of emphasis for carbon bank pilot projects. A pilot program should develop, improve, and scale climate infrastructure and climate-smart practices. Carbon accounting criteria and guidelines for endorsing standards should be established. FACA also recommends pilot projects ensure equitable opportunities for participation. Additionally, pilot projects should encourage more widespread adoption of climate-smart practices. FACA formally made recommendations in the recent request for information about USDA’s climate strategy.
Although the concept of a carbon bank run by USDA remains somewhat controversial, many agricultural groups have been strong proponents. FACA, which now includes more than 70 member organizations, has been a vocal advocate of a carbon bank. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has indicated that a carbon bank would align with other USDA efforts to engage agriculture as a means for combating climate change. USDA climate adviser and President Joe Biden’s nominee for USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, Robert Bonnie has also been a longtime proponent of a carbon bank.