Tester Introduces Bipartisan Biochar Research Legislation to Support Montana Farmers

Research will assess benefits for soil health, crop production, and climate change

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today introduced his bipartisan Biochar Research Network Act, which will establish a national research network to test the impact of biochar across various soil types, application methods, and climates to learn more about its capacity to benefit farmers and the environment.

Tester was joined by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Thune (R-SD), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in introducing the legislation.

“As a farmer, I know that the resources we invest in research and innovation can pay huge dividends down the line by lowering costs for Montana producers and increasing profit margins while improving the health of our fields,” said Tester. “That’s why I’m proud to sponsor this bipartisan legislation that will increase our understanding of the benefits of biochar on improving soil health, increasing moisture retention, and combatting climate change. Montana family farmers and ranchers feed the world, and this bill will help us give them every tool to be successful.”

The Biochar Research Network Act would authorize $50 million in Agricultural Research Service (ARS) funding to set up a network of up to 20 research sites around the country dedicated to studying biochar. These sites could be ARS facilities, state agriculture and forestry experiment stations, or other federal research sites. These sites would study biochar in a diverse range of settings in order to evaluate the technology’s benefits for soil health, crop production, potential soil carbon sequestration, the climate, and the wood products industry. The research network would also deliever cost-effective and practical information to farmers on sustainable biochar production and application.

Tester’s leadership on biochar research was praised by stakeholders:

“NCAT has long recognized biochar as a climate solution with multiple benefits for foresters, ranchers, and protecting our outdoor heritage,” said National Center for Appropriate Technology Executive Director Steve Thompson. “We applaud Senator Tester for his leadership and consistent advocacy for policies that benefit Montanans.”

Biochar is a charcoal-like substance made by heating low-value biomass in a low-oxygen environment. Biochar can be an effective way to turn organic waste products into a soil additive that can help replace chemical fertilizers, provide a store of carbon and other nutrients for health, and remediate degraded land such as abandoned mines.

Tester has long been Montana’s leading champion for family farmers and ranchers. He secured $100 million for biochar and wood product innovation in his bipartisan infrastructure bill to turn low value forest material into a commercial product to help promote forest management. Additionally, his two bipartisan bills, bipartisan anti-consolidation bills – the Meat Packing Special Investigator Act and the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act passed the Senate Agriculture Committee in June after a years-long push by the Senator. Earlier this year, Tester introduced his Agriculture Right to Repair Act to finally guarantee farmers the right to repair their own equipment and end current restrictions on the repair market. Last year, he introduced his bipartisan American Beef Labeling Act, which would ensure that only beef raised in the United States is labeled as a product of the USA, and his bipartisan New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act, which allows meat and poultry products inspected by Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) approved state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines.


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