Grassley reintroduces Biochar Research Network Act

By Erin Voegele | March 16, 2023

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on March 9 reintroduced the bipartisan Biochar Research Network Act. The bill directs the USDA to study the effectiveness of biochar, a carbon-rich material produced from biomass.

The bill, S. 732, was referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry following its introduction. To date, Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont.; John Thune, R-S.D.; and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, have signed on to cosponsor the bill. The bill was previously introduced in the U.S. Senate by Grassley in September 2022, and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, in July 2022.

The legislation aims to create National Biochar Research Network, led by the USDA, that would 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. The network would help understand productive uses for biochar to help with crop production and climate mitigation. It would also assess biochar’s potential for soil carbon sequestration and deliver cost-effective and practical information to farmers on sustainable biochar production and application.

“Farmers rely on science and innovation to increase crop productivity and advance soil health and water quality goals,” Grassley said. “Biochar presents an exciting opportunity for farmers looking for a low-cost way to improve soil quality while sequestering carbon. I’m proud to introduce legislation to research biochar’s potential to serve as an effective tool for farmers in the future.”

“As a third-generation Montana farmer, I know firsthand how important it is that we invest in research and innovation so that Montana producers have the information and tools they need to continue feeding the world,” Tester said. “That’s why I’m teaming up with Senators Grassley, Thune, and Brown to increase our understanding of the benefits of biochar on improving soil health, increasing moisture retention, and combatting climate change. Our family farmers and ranchers are the backbone of Montana’s economy, and I’ll work with anyone to make sure they have the tools they need to thrive.”

“The American agriculture industry continues to be a leader in food and fuel production, soil health, and conservation,” Thune said. “Biochar has the ability to retain nutrients, improve yields, and lower the lifecycle carbon intensity of farming, and I look forward to the advancements this research network would foster.”

“Biochar has the potential to help farmers increase crop yields and protect our environment,” Brown said. “Putting more money in farmer’s pockets while addressing the impacts of climate change just makes sense. As I work on the next Farm Bill, I’ll be pressing for common sense solutions like biochar.”

“I applaud the introduction of the Biochar Research Network Act. The research it enables will pave the way for a new industry that creates jobs and opportunity across rural Iowa producing biochar and next generation biofuel,” said David Laird, professor emeritus of soil science at Iowa State University.

A full copy of the bill is available on Grassley’s website.