You may have noticed the increased attention to policy that impacts the health of our environment and climate in Congress. As that dialogue progresses, America’s farmers and ranchers stand at a critical juncture in how their practices should adapt and what the future of that industry’s regulations could look like.

There is real risk that climate change policy could create many challenges for the agriculture industry. Challenges that create incredible regulatory burden, that decrease efficiency or productivity, that impact that the stability of America’s food supply chain, and that ultimately could cost farmers their business and family legacy.

However, I feel strongly that there is another side to this story. I have shared several times with my colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee and elsewhere, that if addressed correctly, we have the opportunity to turn the climate change dialogue into a tremendous boon for rural America and for agricultural producers. Instead of onerous regulation or mandates, our goal as lawmakers should be to establish turn-key solutions, incentivize improved practices, and unlock the potential for science to aid in increased sustainability.

We need to find and provide the tools that allow producers to work smarter, more efficiently, more sustainably. Tools that leverage innovation and the productivity of Rural America to lessen our emissions and improve our surroundings.

We must improve rural connectivity that allows for increases in precision agriculture which leads to increased yields with reduced inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, water, and fuel (in addition to the other myriad incentives or improved rural broadband). We need to evaluate and retool our regulatory process and pathways to allow innovative products like feed additives that can reduce methane and other greenhouse gasses created by livestock. Then facilitate the adoption of tools like methane digestors like that used by Fair Oaks Farms and BioTown Ag right here in West Central Indiana to turn that remaining animal and food waste into incredibly useful biogas that can be used for electricity and transportation fuels.

We need to adopt new technologies like soy-methyl-ester sealants for our roads and bridges; coatings that don’t require replacement and double the life of concrete infrastructure – greatly reducing carbon emissions while providing demand for American Soybeans. We need to give credit to farmers and ranchers for the good work they already do to benefit our environment through good stewardship, conservation, and the greenhouse gasses they sequester throughout the growing cycle through practices like no-till planting, soil conservation, and adoption of cover crops where appropriate. And of course, we need to look for more opportunities both domestically and abroad to increase adoption of biofuels like ethanol – which a recent Harvard study reported offers a 46% reduction in greenhouse gasses over the fuel additives they replace – all while rebuilding our rural economies and without shifting emissions to other sources, or decimating existing industries.

Another tool in our belt is a bill I’m excited to join my colleagues, Senators Young and Braun in supporting – the Growing Climate Solutions Act. This bill would give technical assistance for our agriculture and forestry sectors to further invest in sustainable management practices that store carbon emissions, like planting cover crops, no-till, prescribed grazing, and reforestation. In other words, this bill would help farmers and ranchers in our communities leverage the practices that they already use, that have a tremendous benefit to the environment to profit through markets that already exist in the private sector.

Over 80% of Indiana’s land is in forest or cropland – nearly 17.5 million acres. According to a study by Michigan State University, the average acre of corn can absorb roughly 36,000 pounds of C02 from the air, and put that carbon back into the soil where it belongs and where it benefits future crops. This volume of greenhouse gas reduction is a tremendous resource in the climate change dialogue, and its exactly the kind of benefit that Hoosier farmers should be rewarded for providing. The Growing Climate Solutions Act will help us do just that.

You’ve likely heard me say before – farmers are the original environmentalists. They are conservationists and tremendous stewards of the land, and they have to be in order to remain productive. And while the use of the term “climate change” is relatively new for these producers, the practices needed to mitigate these challenges are nothing new for farmers. Policy should support these efforts, and I’m proud to step up and help make that happen.

Jim Baird is a U.S. Congressman and represents Indiana’s fourth district.

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