Weekly Columns

Climate change has taken center stage in Washington. Nearly every committee in Congress has been tasked with exploring ways to protect our natural resources, reduce our carbon footprint and implement more sustainable practices.

On its face, the focus on this issue is a very positive development. But there is a right and a wrong way to go about effectuating change. 

The Senate agriculture committee, on which I serve as ranking member, recently demonstrated the correct way in which to approach this issue. We worked in a bipartisan manner to pass the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which gives farmers, ranchers and private forest land owners interested in participating in emerging voluntary environmental credit markets the tools needed to determine if getting involved in these markets is the right direction to take. 

When it was originally introduced, the bill lacked adequate farmer protections and threatened funding of vital existing USDA programs. I worked with my colleagues—both Democrat and Republican—to make numerous improvements that helped us get this significant piece of climate legislation across the Senate floor, with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote. 

If this bill were to become law, it would assist farmers, ranchers and private forest land owners to explore opportunities to be compensated in private markets for making verifiable contributions on the carbon sequestration front. We listened to stakeholders and incorporated changes to protect the private information of farmers and ranchers and to alleviate other concerns raised prior to committee consideration of the legislation. 

By working together on the front end, we strengthened the bill’s appeal to reach a broader base of members from both sides of the aisle, as well as a wide-range of stakeholders from across the agriculture community. This collaboration is a continuation of the long standing tradition that is expected of the Senate agriculture committee to develop practical, bipartisan policy.

Our approach should serve as a model that can be emulated to advance additional initiatives in the climate space. Unfortunately, the tack which President Biden and his allies in Congress are taking is the exact opposite of the course we followed. 

Instead of working together, the administration and congressional Democrats are using a “go-it-alone” process to enact the most extreme elements of their environmental policy. Remember the Democrats’ radical Green New Deal proposals? Well, that is what we are talking about here. 

Under the guise of climate, and without the input of stakeholders or Republicans, the president and congressional Democrats want to spend trillions to expand the size of government in a way that will eliminate jobs and result in higher energy costs for hardworking Americans. It gets worse when one takes into account this strategy’s failure to consider the negative impact an abrupt transition of our energy sources will have on the lives of every American, including the massive land grab needed to pull it off. 

Our farmers, ranchers and foresters are the greatest stewards of the land, and many have been working for a long time to preserve natural resources and protect the environment through on-farm practices. Engaging stakeholders like them is how we create meaningful change, as the best solutions come from the ground up. Taking stakeholder advice and working in a bipartisan manner to turn that into sound policy is the right way to address climate change. Ignoring their voices, and forcing legislation written by progressive activists through Congress, is the wrong way.