Agriculture is getting greener with bipartisan solutions
Witnessing bipartisan solutions for complex challenges, such as infrastructure funding, is a refreshing break from the usual Washington norm of deadlock. Senator Chuck Grassley was among the elected officials who helped pass the Infrastructure Act last year.
In rural communities, like where my family lives, it’s no secret that investment in our critical infrastructure is particularly lacking. Based on the updated funding formula alone, Iowa is expected to receive nearly $4 billion over the next five years in funding for our highways and bridges, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. This translates to a more than 30% increase in our state’s current federal highway funding. Updating our roads, increasing broadband access, and much-needed upgrades to our lock and dam infrastructure along our major river corridors are critical to our state’s economy. We export a lot of raw materials all over the world, and it is necessary to have the right infrastructure in place to compete with our competitors overseas.
Let’s not stop this momentum. Beyond our roads and bridges, there are more opportunities for bipartisan solutions this year to help make our farms more sustainable while increasing profitability. I was encouraged when Senate leaders, joined by more than 70 agricultural and environmental organizations, came together in 2021 to support an important bill.
Following:Opinion: Agriculture’s voluntary action on carbon and sustainability is leading the way
Another view:Opinion: With Iowa and the agriculture industry’s carbon push, plenty of reason to question motives
The Growing Climate Solutions Act would help farmers and ranchers of all sizes enter emerging carbon markets. The bill provides the framework to expand access to reliable information, third-party verification and qualified technical advice that is lacking today. The bill also outlines an experienced advisory board comprised of farmers, the scientific research community and other stakeholders to better understand agriculture’s ability to sequester carbon.
The overarching goal of the bill is to break down barriers to accessing carbon markets. By ensuring a transparent and science-based approach to quantifying and verifying the sequestration of specific practices, a strong signal is sent to growers and landowners who might otherwise have been hesitant to deploy additional terrestrial carbon sequestration practices.
I was delighted to see Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst among the 34 co-sponsors for the US Senate, which are evenly split between the two parties. Grassley and Ernst understand how important it is for our farming community to have a seat at the table in these political conversations.
Across agriculture, as we strive to retain greater amounts of carbon in the soil and reduce emissions, it is important to strike the right balance between sustainability and profitability. There will certainly be a learning curve for many, so to be successful it is important to maintain the voluntary, market-driven approach set out in the legislation. With the right tools, agriculture can continue to play an important role in reducing global emissions by implementing additional climate-smart conservation efforts.
Environmental stewardship is a pillar of any farming operation, and these land practices not only help clean the air, but also have the added benefit of contributing to healthier waterways. A combination of practices ranging from greater adoption of cover crops to adding buffer strips or precision tillage management multiplies the impact. In turn, farmers can receive fair compensation that helps add an additional stream of income to the farm. It’s a win-win situation that leads to greater resilience on our lands and a better environment as a whole.
As the conversation continues in the United States House as we speak, I encourage my own Congressman, Randy Feenstra, to join his Senate colleagues in supporting this approach. We have a great opportunity to continue this bipartisan momentum in a meaningful way.
Scott Henry is a fourth generation farmer and partner of Longview Farms in central Iowa.