AFT Commends Two Conservation and Climate Bills from Representative Brownley
American Farmland Trust is pleased to support Rep. Brownley’s (D-CA) Conservation for Agricultural Leased Land (CALL) Act and the Climate Agricultural Conservation Practices Act. Both of these bills provide solutions to problems identified by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. From one-year leases that can disincentivize long-term conservation planning, to varying levels of owner awareness of farming practices, there are numerous barriers to implementing conservation on rented land. With nearly forty percent of our nation’s agricultural land rented, the CALL Act will identify ways to engage more farmers, ranchers, and landowners in practices that protect the soil, combat climate change, and improve bottom lines. The Climate Agricultural Conservation Practices Act will help ensure that USDA conservation practices will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon, and make agriculture more resilient to climate change.
In June of 2020, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released their report “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy and Just America.” AFT provided expert testimony to the Committee to help shape this report, which AFT commended upon its release. Rep. Brownley’s two bills correspond to specific recommendations outlined by the report to “provide incentives for farmers leasing land to invest in soil health and climate stewardship practices” and “revise NRCS Conservation Practice Standards to increase consideration of climate mitigation and resilience.”
We were pleased to work alongside Rep. Brownley and her staff in developing the CALL Act, which will be an important first step toward addressing the complex, yet often overlooked, effect of land tenure on conservation. The bill will direct USDA to conduct a study on the present state of conservation on rented land, and to make recommendations on the best ways to overcome barriers. AFT is pleased that the bill recognizes that the solutions to this issue will not be “one-size-fits-all,” and that the bill directs USDA to carry out the study with special consideration of farmers and ranchers of color.
AFT’s own work on this topic will help to inform this study. Our recent report, “Understanding and Activating Non-Operator Landowners,” shows that landowners care about conservation and are willing to partner with farmer tenants to steward their land. We also know that women are a growing audience among non-operator landowners and must be engaged in new and creative ways to meet their needs, as they have historically not been included in traditional outreach programs. Through targeted programming for farmers and landowners – such as instructions on how to set mutually agreeable conservation goals and drafting long-term leases – we can improve conservation outcomes nationally.
We also believe that the Climate Agricultural Conservation Practices Act is an important step toward integrating conservation and climate goals, and using NRCS as a powerful tool to accomplish climate mitigation and adaptation. The bill would authorize NRCS to periodically review conservation practice standards and evaluate the climate benefits of applicable standards. This would ensure the latest science is incorporated into these conservation practices.
AFT looks forward to continuing to serve as a resource for the development and support of these exciting pieces of legislation.