Here is an article on what the bill contains.
Clearly, Congress has an interest in the use and benefits of biochar.
U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell's “biochar bill” intended to clean up forests, reduce emissions
Carlsbad Current-Argus, NM
U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM) introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives she said she hoped would cut down on greenhouse gas emissions while assisting with agriculture and forest management.
If passed, the bill would instruct the secretaries of agriculture and energy to establish a program and enter partnerships for projects to demonstrate biochar to develop and commercialize its use.
At least one of the demonstration projects would be held in each region covered by the U.S. Forest Service.
Proposals would be given priority based on the level of carbon sequestration, potential for job creation and the market viability of the projects along with local need.
The Departments of Energy and Agriculture could then provide grant funding to research, develop or construct biochar and the needed facilities.
In a video posted to Twitter by House Minority Leader U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Herrell, herself from Alamogordo near Lincoln National Forest, said the “Biochar Act” said the bill was environmentally friendly and would aid in forest management.
“We a great opportunity to harvest our natural resources, clean up our forest bed and use those products as biochar,” she said. “Biochar is used not only by our ag industries it’s used by our forest industry.”
Biochar involves burning organic matter like woodchips and introducing it into soil to reduce impacts like carbon emissions and drought through water retention.
Herrell said using biochar should be encouraged by the federal government and a way to use debris created during forest cleaning.
“It retains water, it lessens the number of carbons let off into the atmosphere,” she said. “It is a great way, a safe way, a green way to protect our forest and bring much-need nutrients to our land while all the time preserving water.
“It’s great for our state. It’s great for our nation and really great for our industries.”
Academic research on biochar appeared to point toward it being helpful in mitigating impacts on the environment but could prove difficult and expensive to produce.
Biochar is generated by heating organic materials using a low-oxygen source through a process called pyrolysis or anaerobic decomposition, per a report from the Utah State University Extension written by Soils Specialist Grant Cardon.
The resulting charcoal-like product can then be mixed back into the soil to sequester carbon, preventing it from being emitted into the atmosphere, and provide water to help soil absorb nutrients, the report read.
The more the biochar is heated, the more absorbent it becomes and the more carbon it retains.
At lower temperatures of about 750 to 900 degrees Fahrenheit (F) up to half of the carbon is preserved, the report read, and at higher temperatures up to 1,300 F most of the material is converted to energy that can be used as a low-carbon source of power, with about 10 to 20 percent of the residue remaining as biochar.
Biochar can then be used to increase the fertility of soils in areas like forests.
The higher-temperature biochar can create a risk of “binding up” nutrients and have a negative impact on soil productivity, the report read.
“In either case, the biochar left over has desirable properties as a soil amendment,” Cardon wrote. “In fact, the lower-temperature products are very similar to materials proposed as responsible for the development of highly fertile “terra preta” soils in South America.”
A study from American University posed some concern for the cost of producing biochar and argued it could be difficult to measure how much carbon biochar was specifically removing from the air.
Great news! House Republicans endorse the use of biochar for ag and forest soils.
“Lawmakers announced their plans for addressing climate change, sustainable ag”
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Senate ag leaders say that they are days away from releasing a bipartisan climate change bill.
Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow tells Agri-Pulse that funding issues have been worked out. The legislation will lay the groundwork for carbon markets.
A Republican on the committee said that there is more buy-in for farm country than people think and the markets have a good chance of making headway this year.
House Ag leaders have their own ideas on climate change and just hours ago they released their own agenda.
Republic members announced a package of bills aimed at addressing climate change and sustainability in agriculture. Ag Committee ranking member Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania says that many of the existing conservation programs have more demand than funding available.
According to Rep. Thompson, "This bill provides incentives based on current Farm Bill language to open the door for partnerships with the private sector to leverage funding to get more conservation on the ground."
Illinois Republican, Rodney Davis is looking to incentivize producers to transition to conservation practices on the farm with direct payments and technical assistance.
"This bill will help to optimize agriculture's ability to sequester carbon, reduce emissions, and it will do it by establishing soil health transition incentive program, and by providing states with flexibility and funding, they're the ones that will be able to build on existing programs and develop new scientific and best practices to improve soil health," Davis stated.
On the forestry side, Natural Resources Committee ranking member Bruce Westerman reintroduced the Trillion Trees Act which would not only plant more trees but also allows for better forest management and new markets for wood products.
"We've got a component in here for a product called biochar which is very exciting because you can take the low-value products off of the forest that really needs to be thinned but there is no real marketable home for them," Westerman explains. "You can make biochar which can be added to the soil and greatly benefit agriculture-- biochar is almost pure carbon."
South Dakota Republican, Dusty Johnson is also looking for timber solutions. His measure would allow for a public-private partnership to remove trees near roadways when they are downed by fire or storms.
"Categorical exclusions will help get that timber out of the forest. Number two, it makes it clear that judicial review will not unduly slow down those types of efforts, and number three, it makes sure the forest service... will allow within 60 days allow for timber sales for private companies to go out and grab that timber," Johnson notes.
Congressman Thompson sees all of these bills as an alternative to Democrat measures he says could negatively impact the economy.
"All these bills have one thing in common, they are designed to reduce the carbon footprint while increasing productivity and economic competitiveness of our farms and our rural communities," he adds. "Now we cannot sacrifice a healthy economy for a healthy environment."
Iowa Republican, Ashley Hinson put forth a bill that increases the cost-share for the purchase of precision ag equipment.
Video: See video embedded in the article for more details
(Thanks to Ken Pantuck for these links. TRM)