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The Biden Administration’s 30×30: An opportunity for agriculture to define its future as one of America’s greatest natural resources

Agricultural lands are essential to a resilient America—healthy food, clean air and water, biodiversity, open space and recreation, and vibrant rural communities. That’s the stuff of which we are made and what keeps us strong and prepared for crisis. It is what fosters our well-being.  

Yet, this country has experienced a huge loss of agricultural land to development in the last decades. Between 2001 and 2016 alone, 11 million acres of the nation’s irreplaceable agricultural land were lost, compromised, or fragmented. That’s equal to all the land in the U.S. used to produce fruits, vegetables and nuts. 

It’s a daunting challenge, but a new effort offers hope. 

In the Biden Administration’s 30×30 initiative, American Farmland Trust sees an opportunity to secure the land base and protect the environment while supporting farmers and ranchers. And we shared our ideas on how to get there in a set of detailed recommendations for the White House: “Agriculture’s Role in 30×30: Partnering with Farmers and Ranchers to Protect Land, Biodiversity, and the Climate.”

Our recommendations make it clearwe 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. 

And we must do it in a way that builds on the legacy of voluntary, incentive-based conservationprograms that make soils heathier, make our farms more productive and make room for more wildlife on the landscape. Wcan use the programs that USDA has built up over decades to protect land, the environment, and farming and ranching simultaneously. There are many excellent tools already in the toolbox. Each situation will be different. We only need to use the best tool for the job. 

We know that there is some hesitance about the 30×30 initiative within the agricultural community. And undoubtedly, the contours of the 30×30 initiative are still coming together. What AFT believes is that it CAN be good for agriculture. But we must make it so. 

Let’s work together to turn 30×30 into a huge opportunity to drive agriculture forward and protect America’s irreplaceable farmland and ranchland. 

About the Author
Mitch Hunter, PhD

Research Director

mhunter@farmland.org

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