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Agriculture’s Role in 30x30

Agriculture’s Role in 30x30: Partnering with Farmers and Ranchers to Protect Land, Biodiversity, and the Climate

American Farmland Trust views our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and foresters as essential allies in the effort to reach the 30×30 goals for biodiversity conservation and climate mitigation. The lands that they manage are critical for wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, food security, clean water, and rural prosperity.

The U.S. needs bold, new approaches to enlist their help at the vast scale required to effectively protect biodiversity and stabilize the climate. We will need to both protect vulnerable working lands from being permanently converted by development, and support landowners’ voluntary efforts to implement conservation practices, particularly in biodiversity hotspots, key connectivity corridors, and areas with high carbon sequestration potential.

To be successful, these policies must embrace USDA’s legacy of voluntary, incentive-based, and locally led conservation and be strategically targeted. To that end, we recommend that the Biden Administration take the following actions.

Recommendation #1

Commit to protecting and conserving 30 percent of working farmland and ranchland by 2030

• Use voluntary agricultural conservation easements to permanently protect at least 5 percent of farmland and ranchland from development by 2030, ensuring that it can continue producing food in perpetuity.

• Incentivize adoption of conservation measures on these permanently protected acres and an additional 25% of farmland and ranchland, with a specific focus on conserving biodiversity and/or implementing natural climate solutions.

 

Recommendation #2

Take immediate action to accelerate working lands protection and biodiversity conservation using USDA’s existing programs and authorities

• Appoint a high-level USDA 30×30 coordinator and offer support to state agencies.

• Develop a mechanism to account for all acres protected and conserved via federal programs; encourage and enable voluntary reporting on complementary non-federal efforts.

• Use geospatial data to improve targeting of existing conservation cost-share programs, including by expanding the successful Working Lands for Wildlife program.

• Increase capacity to provide conservation technical assistance, through additional NRCS staffing, partnerships with third-party organizations, and Civilian Climate Corps workers.

Recommendation #3

Fight the loss of working lands to development

• Dramatically expand investment in the Agricultural Conservation Easement ProgramAgricultural Land Easements (ACEP-ALE) and the Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP).

• Strengthen the Farmland Protection Policy Act and ensure that it covers new federal investments in renewable energy.

• Create new tools to reduce the conversion of our best agricultural land and incentivize the transfer of land to the next generation of producers.

Recommendation #4

Launch a targeted effort to protect wildlife habitat on working lands

• Provide major new funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to establish an initiative focused on protecting and conserving private working lands in biodiversity hotspots and wildlife movement corridors.

• Expand the toolbox of incentives for rural landowners to protect wildlife habitat.

Photo by Lance Cheung, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service