Assemblymember Barrett Introduces First of its Kind Legislation on Carbon Farming

New legislation creates tax credit for climate-smart agricultural practices

In a win-win move for both farmers and the environment, Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Columbia, Dutchess) opened the new legislative session with groundbreaking legislation creating a carbon farming tax credit (A3281). The plan will give farmers a welcome new tax break while simultaneously helping the state reach its climate change goals. Carbon farming makes economic sense for farmers and environmental sense for all New Yorkers.

“After listening to farmers in my district who are leading the movement in environmentally friendly farming practices, it was easy to see how this approach is a win-win for everyone involved. This new tax credit plan will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by keeping valuable nutrients in the soil, it will keep equally valuable currency in the pockets of our hard-working farmers,” said Assemblymember Barrett.

The aim of a statewide carbon farming initiative is twofold: as a land stewardship program it improves soil health and productivity by holding nutrients in place; as a climate-smart initiative it mitigates the release of carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon dioxide is a primary greenhouse gas and contributes to climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide emissions can be quantified by existing methods for measuring air pollution and through the use of software developed by the USDA.

The 2014 Farm Bill gave USDA authority to provide technical assistance to farmers and land owners in support of their response to climate change. While other states like California have also begun to develop programs with similar aims, New York’s carbon farming tax credit would be the first of its kind to create a tax break for farmers who use climate-smart methods. Climate-smart land management practices improve soil resilience and increase productivity for our state’s farmers while also addressing the state’s climate change goals. By using no-till systems, planting cover crops, trees and perennial forages in pastures, and by managing compost application, farmers can see improvements in water holding capacity, nutrient storage, and reduced erosion. All of these farming practices have the collateral benefit of sequestering carbon, thereby reducing its emission into the atmosphere as CO2.

As an advocate for climate-smart farming practices, Barrett’s membership on both the Assembly’s Agriculture and Markets and Environmental Conservation Committees will give her greater voice on these issues.

“Federal agencies are under threat of being downsized which means we could lose valuable assistance and programs currently available to farmers. State action is even more critical at this time for the future of agriculture in our country,” said Barrett. “I urge our state leaders to take a close look at this new carbon farming initiative. It will accomplish mutually beneficial goals for our farmers and the environment. This is the kind of common ground we need to explore.”