AFT Applauds New 30×30 Progress Report
This statement can be attributed to Tim Fink, American Farmland Trust’s policy director
December 22, 2021 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier this week, the Biden Administration released a progress report on the “America the Beautiful” initiative, also known as 30×30, a framework to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands, freshwater, and ocean areas by 2030. American Farmland Trust (AFT) applauds the actions detailed in this report which underscore that our nation’s farmers and ranchers are essential allies in meeting this goal. We especially appreciated the report’s reiteration of the need for a voluntary, incentives-based, and locally-led approach as well as the attention to equity concerns. We also commend the departments and agencies that developed the report for announcing a comment period to provide additional opportunities for public input to shape this initiative in early 2022.
In comments submitted earlier this year, AFT highlighted how supporting and incentivizing farmers to permanently protect their land and adopt conservation practices long term are two critical ways that federal and state governments can help farmers improve biodiversity, wildlife habitat, and climate resilience. AFT concluded that we urgently need to both permanently protect five percent of vulnerable working lands from being converted to development and support landowners’ voluntary efforts to implement conservation practices on an additional twenty-five percent of working lands, particularly in biodiversity hotspots, key connectivity corridors, and areas with high carbon sequestration potential.
While the Administration’s report rightly recognizes the contributions to 30×30 that can be made through USDA programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, we encourage the Administration to also include permanent farmland protection and long-term conservation practice adoption in their 30×30 accounting. AFT research has shown that between 2001 and 2017, 11 million acres of farmland and ranchland were converted to urban and highly developed land uses or low-density residential land uses. However, if permanently protected, this land would remain as wildlife habitat and a source of carbon sequestration. Because of this, USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement – Agricultural Land Easement Program is an essential piece of our nation’s 30×30 puzzle.
Additionally, long term-adoption of conservation practices has been shown to increase biodiversity and promote necessary climate resilience, both on and off of farms. Farmers and ranchers throughout the country have worked with the assistance of experts and USDA programs – like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) – to develop conservation plans and adopt regenerative practices such as prescribed grazing, reduced tillage, intercropping, and planting cover crops and riparian buffers. These practices increase biodiversity both below ground in the soil biome and above ground. There are many examples of how working lands have been used to improve biodiversity, including restoring salmon populations, increasing pollinator habitat, and supporting wildlife migratory corridors. As such, aspects of USDA’s EQIP, CSP, and other workings lands conservation programs can also contribute to the 30×30 goal.
The actions the Administration has taken in 2021, and the discussions underway for laying out a path to achieve 30×30, make clear that farmers and ranchers are critical partners in combating climate change and protecting biodiversity. AFT looks forward to continuing to partner with farmers and ranchers to protect their land and adopt regenerative practices, and to serve as a resource as the Administration moves forward in developing its America the Beautiful initiative.