I grew up in the Panhandle of Florida in an area peppered with farms. My father lived close to a peanut farm - so close that after the plows reaped the harvest, we walked to the end of his drive to collect the peanuts forgotten on the edges. I witnessed at an early age the integral role farms play both in our communities and our economy, as well as how intertwined the lives of Floridian farmers and residents are.
Farming practices are critical to the condition of our environment, as well. Most of us live close to farmland in this state. More than nine million acres, roughly one quarter of the Florida landscape, is dedicated to commercial farms and agriculture. Agriculture contributes around 10% of U.S. carbon emissions, but it is also a critical partner in addressing climate change. Agricultural land absorbs and sequesters carbon pollution. Certain farming practices can cut emissions while augmenting those carbon storage capabilities. The Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021 is a bipartisan bill that will help farmers harness these offsets and work towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act directs the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a program that certifies technical assistance providers and third party verifiers that will help farmers integrate sustainable farming practices, verify their carbon offsets, and access an expanding carbon credit market. By offsetting carbon emissions, farmers and ranchers have the opportunity to sell carbon credits which will make farming during hard economic times much more feasible; this is incredibly important now as rural economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This bi-partisan bill is a representation that as a nation, we can achieve environmental progress while concurrently bolstering our economic well-being. The Growing Climate Solutions Act, if passed, will empower farmers and ranchers, help mitigate climate change impacts, and protect the places that birds and other wildlife need.
I would like to thank Sen. Marco Rubio for his co-sponsorship of this bill and his and Sen. Rick Scott’s supporting votes that contributed to the act passing in the Senate; their support signals thoughtful progress for the State of Florida and the country as a whole. I implore that our congressional representatives follow suit and offer their full support as the bill enters the House. The Growing Climate Solutions Act would help preserve one of the most essential pillars in our society. Measures to secure rural agriculture are vastly important; they aren’t just peanuts. Passing this bill would be true progress and a win-win for farmers and climate.
Kate Herrin is a B.AS candidate at St. Petersburg College. She studies Sustainability Management with a particular interest in environmental policy. Her passion for the environment developed from her closeness with the waters and woods of the Florida Gulf Coast where she grew up surfing and exploring. She maintains her ambition to preserve the wildlife and natural beauty of the state she calls home.