Bill Text (PDF)

Washington (December 14, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, and Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.), along with Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06) and Andrew Garbarino (NY-02), today announced the introduction of the Natural Climate Solutions Research and Extension Act. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation would advance sustainable agriculture practices across the United States by making natural climate solutions a high research and extension priority at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), unlocking federal funding for farmers to protect the environment via land management practices that increase carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agriculture sector alone is responsible for ten percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, more than half of which is linked to soil and land management practices. The legislation would ensure that the science-based knowledge gained through USDA’s research program is translated into actionable strategies for farmers and landowners, enabling them to successfully implement their climate solutions on the ground. It would also lift up natural climate solutions that have co-benefits, such as promoting biodiversity and climate resilience, reducing runoff, and incorporating traditional ecological knowledge.

“The food that nourishes us should be safe for us and safe for the planet - not poisonous for our natural resources,” said Senator Markey. “Farmers and landowners should be equipped with the proper tools and knowledge to decrease emissions and combat the devastating effects of climate change. The Natural Climate Solutions Research and Extension Act will sow the seeds of a next-generation, clean agriculture sector that will lead the world in developing sustainable farming practices. I thank Senator Braun and Representatives Houlahan and Garabino for their partnership on this important legislation.”

“Farmers are natural conservationists: they have a vested interest in preserving our land and natural resources, and this bill will fuel research for land management practices that protect our environment – rather than top-down government mandates,” said Senator Braun.

“As co-Chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus, I know how important it is to engage our natural resources to reduce carbon emissions while simultaneously supporting conservation,” said Representative Garbarino. “This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will provide our agricultural sector the tools necessary to engage in sustainable farming practices that will play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring a cleaner, greener environment for generations to come.”

“As we continue to seek bipartisan climate solutions, we must leverage the important role the federal government can play in incentivizing research opportunities,” said Representative Houlahan. “This bipartisan, bicameral legislation is a win for our research institutions whose work will help farmers and conservationists, like those in southeastern Pennsylvania, adopt sustainable practices that will protect the environment and increase climate resilience.”

A copy of the legislation text can be found HERE.

Cosponsors in the Senate include Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

The Natural Climate Solutions Research and Extension Act is endorsed by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), The Nature Conservancy, Woodwell Climate Research Center, Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP), Rural Coalition, Farm Action Fund, American Farmland Trust (AFT), Friends of the Earth, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Bipartisan Policy Center Action, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), and Carbon180.

“Too often, federal research and funding promote practices that only partially mitigate the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture while ignoring effective conservation techniques based in well-established tradition that have served the land for generations,” said Joe Van Wye, Policy and Outreach Director at Farm Action Fund. “We thank Senator Markey for his work to promote practices that meaningfully benefit the environment and support communities engaging in true stewardship and look forward to the inclusion of this important legislation in the upcoming farm bill.”

“Nature is one of our best, proven tools to naturally capture carbon, supporting thriving people and wildlife, and support clean drinking water and healthy air,” said Ben Knuth, Agriculture Policy Specialist at the National Wildlife Federation. “The bipartisan Natural Climate Solutions Research and Extension Act will provide the flexibility and authority for USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to assist farmers, ranchers, and private landowners in adapting to and addressing the changing climate.”

“Our nation’s farmers and ranchers are not just on the front lines of climate impacts, they are an essential source of climate solutions,” said Tim Fink, Policy Director at American Farmland Trust. “The Natural Climate Solutions Research and Extension Act will help unlock their ability to sequester carbon and reduce emissions by making these goals a priority for research and extension grants.”

“The natural climate solutions found in our forests, wetlands, farms, and other spaces can not only reduce the carbon in our atmosphere but also lead to a healthier, resilient future for their landscapes, their communities, and the planet,” said Jenny Conner, Associate Director of Legislative Affairs at The Nature Conservancy. “By prioritizing research on natural climate solutions, this legislation will ensure federal resources and focus are on this critical tool in our climate toolbox. Thank you to Senators Markey and Braun for demonstrating the bipartisan support for advancing natural climate solutions.”

“There is no path to a stable climate without natural climate solutions, and the critically important carbon sequestration that they provide,” said Dave McGlinchey, Chief of Government Relations at Woodwell Climate Research Center. “The Woodwell Climate Research Center applauds this step to promote research on Natural Climate Solutions through the Department of Agriculture, which will improve our scientific understanding and implementation of relevant agriculture practices. Thank you to Senators Markey and Braun for leading this effort in the Senate.”

“The climate crisis demands that we use every tool at our disposal to fight back,” said Deanna Moran, Vice President for Healthy & Resilient Communities at the Conservation Law Foundation. “Natural practices like better land management on farms store more carbon and reduce polluted runoff, and they must be part of the solution. This bill is a major step forward, and it will allow many more farms to put these climate solutions into practice.”  

“Agriculture could be the leading source of U.S. emissions by 2050,” said Geoff Horsfield, Government Affairs Manager at the Environmental Working Group. “Our farmers are already feeling the effects of climate change and are already adopting common sense practices that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build soil carbon, and make their farms better able to withstand extreme weather. USDA can support farmers by making research efforts to reduce emissions a top priority.”

“Our farmers and farmland can play a major role in mitigating the effects of the climate crisis, as they manage one of the largest potential carbon sinks on the planet,” said Susan Murray, Executive Director of Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership. “Increasing funding for climate-smart practices to increase carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be a tremendous step in the right direction for supporting our climate and our farmers.”

“We applaud Senators Markey and Braun for prioritizing research to activate agricultural and forestlands as carbon sinks,” said Cristel Zoebisch, Deputy Director of Policy at Carbon180. “Creating a new high-priority research and extension initiative on natural climate solutions will route more funding into uncovering which land management systems and practices work best for different regions and operation types to store more carbon, while elevating the important role of traditional ecological knowledge in soil stewardship.”

“As our climate continues to change, it is critical that we understand exactly what tools producers have available to best manage and care for the land and resources that sustain us,” said Lorette Picciano, Executive Director of the Rural Coalition. “We thank Senator Markey and his colleagues for expanding the scope of research to include a more diverse range of approaches to resilience as provided in the Natural Climate Solutions Research and Extension Act.”

“BPC Action applauds this legislation to add natural climate solutions to the list of priority projects that land-grant universities can research and study. This will both stimulate U.S. innovation and leverage producers, ranchers, and landowners as partners in addressing climate change,” said Michele Stockwell, President of Bipartisan Policy Center Action. “We thank Senators Ed Markey and Mike Braun and Representatives Andrew Garbarino and Chrissy Houlahan for their bipartisan, bicameral leadership on this bill.”

“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition applauds the introduction of the Natural Climate Solutions Research and Extension Act, which is a meaningful and bipartisan step towards reaching solutions for the climate crisis,” said Nick Rossi, Policy Specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “By encouraging research related to land management practices that store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions this act will support the efforts of our agriculture researchers and farmers in achieving climate resilience.”