Bipartisan Policy Center’s Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force releases policy recommendations aimed at jump-starting rapid scale-up of farm and forest based carbon solutions

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WASHINGTON , February 3, 2022 (press release) –

  • emphasize voluntary and incentive-based approaches to natural climate solutions,
  • support the needs of farm and forest producers and landowners,
  • promote cross-sector collaboration, and
  • provide transparency in the methods used to track and quantify benefits from natural climate solutions.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, U.S. soils and forests have the potential to sequester about 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Emerging markets for carbon credits, corporate sustainability initiatives, and new government incentive programs could generate tens of billions of dollars per year in new investment for working farm and forest lands within a decade.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocated more than $6 billion for forest restoration, hazardous fuels management, and wood products innovation, among other provisions that support natural climate solutions. The task force’s recommendations include a strong focus on policy implementation of the infrastructure act so that this and other recommended funding can be deployed quickly and effectively.

“The passage of the infrastructure act affirms ongoing bipartisan support for investing in the nation’s natural infrastructure,” said Lesley Jantarasami, BPC managing director of the Energy Program. “With the upcoming Farm Bill negotiations, and robust dialogue among industry, the nonprofit sector, and state, federal, and tribal nation partners, there is tremendous momentum to advance a suite of policies that would place U.S. agriculture and forestry in a position to achieve durable and effective climate solutions.”

In Federal Policies to Advance Natural Climate Solutions, the task force identifies six distinct policy objectives:

  • expanding existing conservation programs;
  • addressing technical support and workforce needs;
  • strengthening voluntary carbon markets;
  • developing new finance and insurance instruments;
  • enhancing carbon storage and climate resilience of farm and forest lands; and
  • fostering farm and forest-based climate innovation.

“Our recommendations come at a critical juncture for advancing bipartisan climate solutions, and I say this as a latecomer to the climate issue,” said task force co-chair, former Sen. Saxby Chambliss. “I’m proud of the work that this task force has accomplished to recommend strategic changes at USDA, without replacing core programs, to enable more farmers and forest landowners to do their part for the climate.”

“Our task force grappled with tough questions of how carbon programs and markets can achieve both business and environmental goals, and in ways that bring more farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to the table,” said task force co-chair, former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. “If enacted, our policy framework will ensure government programs and financial capital are accessible to all producers and forest landowners—especially those who have been historically underserved by the USDA—and will accelerate the shift toward more sustainable land management systems that provide meaningful climate and economic benefits.”

The Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force met throughout 2021 to enhance the role of American agriculture and forestry as valuable natural climate solutions and provide new revenue streams to farmers, ranchers, and foresters. Co-chaired by former Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Saxby Chambliss, the task force includes leaders across agriculture and forestry, environmental and conservation nonprofits, trade associations, and former government officials. The group shares a common view that America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners can play a pivotal role in addressing climate change, both by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from their own operations and by adopting practices and technologies that increase the amount of carbon stored in soils, forests, and wood products.

Read the report here.

Read more about the work of the task force online.

Read more from task force members on the report release:

Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director, Federation of Southern Cooperatives:
“Scaling up climate-smart agriculture and forestry will require the participation of all American producers and landowners to generate the impact needed. For over 50 years, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives has provided education and technical assistance to thousands of African American farmers across the South. New carbon-based revenue opportunities can support our mission to reverse Black land loss and expand land-based economic development, so I am pleased that the Bipartisan Policy Center’s task force made financial and technical assistance for small operations and historically disadvantaged and underrepresented farmers a core part of its recommendations.”

Jad Daley, President and CEO, American Forests:
“The climate crisis is dire, and our land stewards need greater support to better position themselves in the fight against climate change, maximizing the power of our working farms and forests to achieve shared goals for our communities, our forests, and our climate. This package of bipartisan recommendations addresses the barriers to action for our farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners, making a compelling case for robust public and private sector investments and technical assistance to help them employ climate-smart practices that will strengthen economic competitiveness, build resilience, and elevate the contribution of our working lands in the fight against climate change.”

Ara Erickson, Director of Corporate Sustainability, Weyerhaeuser:
“We applaud the work of the task force and the Bipartisan Policy Center for identifying practical, yet ambitious, opportunities. These recommendations lay out real possibilities for creating meaningful climate change mitigation and position working forests, and other lands, as part of the solution.”

Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership:
Hunters and anglers have long been vocal advocates for and willing partners in private land conservation because of the layered benefits for wildlife habitat, clean water, and the outdoor recreation economy—empowering rural farmers and forest owners to contribute to climate resilience is a critical next step. Achieving our country’s climate goals will help to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. We’re proud to support these recommendations aimed at improving the long-term resilience and productivity of America’s farms, rangelands, and forests.”

Dan Glickman, Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture; Senior Fellow, BPC:
“While serving on the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee and as secretary of the Department of Agriculture, I have always strongly supported investments in rural infrastructure, conservation, and research. Our task force recommendations provide a bipartisan blueprint of sensible steps that USDA can take to strengthen these core capabilities and enable farmers and forest owners to participate in the emerging multi-billion-dollar carbon market.”

Krysta Harden, President and CEO, U.S. Dairy Export Council:
“The U.S. dairy industry is eager to be a part of the solution for a sustainable future; that’s why our industry has committed to reduce all GHG emissions to net-zero by 2050 in addition to taking other steps to reduce our environmental impact. Incentive-based approaches can help catalyze movement in the right direction to deliver climate solutions while also making U.S. exports more globally competitive.”

Rita Hite, President and CEO, American Forest Foundation:
Our planet is hungry for action to mitigate the effects of climate change, and rural America—family forest owners, ranchers, and farmers alike—are a key part of that solution. We commend the Bipartisan Policy Center for bringing together such a diverse group of stakeholders to put forth these recommendations. We look forward to continuing to collaborate on these critical issues, and to work with our partners in Congress to appropriately scale up the funding necessary to advance these natural climate solutions with America’s producers.”

Bob Izlar, Founding Director, University of Georgia Center for Forest Business:
“Working forests have always been a key component of American conservation and the economy. The release of the task force report further emphasizes the natural capital benefits of private forestlands—their exceptional ability to sequester vast amounts of carbon for the benefit of all.”

Leonard Jordan, CEO, LJ Conservation Matters, LLC; Board Member, Compatible Lands Foundation; Former Acting Chief, USDA NRCS:
“Preserving America’s natural resources has been at the heart of my more than 40-year career with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and now guides my work at LJ Conservation Matters and Climate Smart Environmental Consulting. The recommendations in this report highlight the importance of expanding conservation practices and increasing resilience for rural Americans. I’m proud to be a part of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force as we seek to increase sustainability and prepare our agricultural industry for the future.”

A.G. Kawamura, Founding Chair, Solutions from the Land; Former California Secretary of Agriculture:
“The impaired and declining function of our forests and watersheds must be addressed with a real-time response driven by an innovative collaboration of stewards, experts, government, and NGOs evolving from a ‘think tank’ to a ‘do-tank’ framework, like the actionable policy recommendations from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force. The dynamic toolbox of tested and proven policy ideas we’ve curated can allow for site specific, targeted intervention in our forests and working landscapes bringing needed transformation and real results.”

Ben Mosely, Vice President, Government Affairs, USA Rice:
“The task force recommendations follow the guiding principle of a voluntary and incentive-based approach. This same approach helped U.S. rice farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 41% over the last four decades. Policies that provide a diverse portfolio of ecosystem opportunities, if paired with the right incentives, will allow rice farmers to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. Rice conservation practices continue advancing and evolving, and the goal remains the same: produce more rice while using less water and less energy; improve water quality, air quality, and soil conservation; and enhance wildlife habitats to support biodiversity. The U.S. rice industry is proud of its accomplishments and will continue to lead the world in on-farm production efficiencies, environmental improvements, wildlife preservation, and food safety.”

Collin O’Mara, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation:
“Through collaborative partnerships on working lands, America’s farmers, ranchers, and landowners can play a critical role to bolster resilience and sequester carbon emissions, while increasing productivity. This landmark report underscores the need for increased investment in voluntary natural climate solutions on the nation’s hundreds of millions of acres of farms and ranchland. Investing in collaborative conservation has broad bipartisan support and we urge Congress and the Biden administration to seize this moment by prioritizing climate-smart agriculture and natural climate solutions.”

Laura Wood Peterson, President, LWP Consulting; Ranch Operator; Advisor, Indigo Ag:
“Advancing natural climate provisions, as outlined in the Bipartisan Policy Center’s report, contributes to the post-1900s policy paradigm we need to accelerate climate-smart agriculture at the landscape scale.”

Tom Schultz, Director of Resource and Government Affairs, Idaho Forest Group:
“Idaho Forest Group and its logging and hauling contractors have been sustainably managing private, state, and federal forests in the intermountain for more than 40 years. Active forest management not only brings value to our customers in the form of renewable building products, but also adds value to our employees, contractors, landowners, partners, and the communities in which we operate. Working forests are key components of strong rural economies, healthy ecosystems, and a healthy climate, but also require cross-boundary collaboration to improve and protect forest health at watershed and regional scales. The policy recommendations from BPC’s Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force identify needed investments and institutional changes to reduce barriers to voluntary stewardship practices.”

Brian Thalmann, Grower; Board Member, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Board Member, National Corn Growers Association:
“Corn growers are committed to being part of the climate solution. The task force recommendations provide a practical roadmap focused on incentives and market-based policies that reward producers and landowners for storing carbon on their lands and reducing emissions. We are particularly appreciative of former Senators Chambliss and Heitkamp for their work in supporting policy recommendations that are designed to address climate change and create opportunities for farmers.”

Ben Thomas, Senior Policy Director for Agriculture, Environmental Defense Fund:
“We all have a stake in stabilizing the climate, and farmers, ranchers, and forest operators stand ready to deliver results. Producers need policies to both support their efforts today and spur innovative solutions for tomorrow. EDF is thankful for BPC’s leadership in showing the power of taking a collaborative approach in developing climate solutions.”

Bryan Van Stippen, Program Director, National Indian Carbon Coalition:
“Tribal and Indigenous communities have been stewards of the land and natural resources since time immemorial, and today tribal nations in the U.S. control large amounts of land used for farming, ranching, or forestry. The policies proposed by this task force would open up new opportunities for farm and forest based carbon sequestration projects, which is consistent with the mission of the National Indian Carbon Coalition. It’s critically important that these federal policies recognize tribal sovereignty, support tribal land ownership and economic development, and reduce the effects of climate change.”

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