As Congress considers a major suite of infrastructure and other spending programs this fall, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force urges strong continued support for provisions that simultaneously strengthen rural economies, deliver critical climate and ecosystem benefits, and help America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners continue to meet national and global demand for food and renewable resources. We believe that a strategic policy vision coupled with smart federal investments in rural infrastructure can unlock and leverage transformational private investment in our agricultural and forestry sectors to deliver a variety of natural climate solutions, including strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and capture carbon from the atmosphere, and store it in soils, vegetation, wood and other biobased products. These investments are also needed to help America’s agriculture and forestry sectors, which have recently struggled with unprecedented drought and wildfire impacts, to build resilience and adapt to a changing climate in the coming years and decades.
We came together as members of BPC’s Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force because we believe that a comprehensive and ambitious policy framework to advance natural carbon solutions can deliver strong economic and environmental benefits for rural communities and increase access to federal government programs and private market opportunities for producers and landowners. As we work to map out this broader agenda, we applaud the efforts of the 117th Congress and the Biden administration to advance bipartisan initiatives that address wildfire and forest health needs, fund rural broadband infrastructure, and provide incentives for improved land management practices that deliver meaningful climate benefits.
The Senate-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides more than $6 billion for wildfire risk reduction programs, ecosystem restoration and burned area recovery, state and tribal forestry programs, and wood innovation grants. It also includes the bipartisan REPLANT Act, which removes a cap on the Reforestation Trust Fund to help the U.S. Forest Service clear the 4 million-acre backlog of National Forest System lands in need of reforestation and keep up with rising future needs. Lastly, it includes vital investments across the whole natural climate solutions supply chain, including seedling production and wood utilization. If funded, these programs would provide critical resources for implementing natural climate solutions.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, together with funding proposals being developed in budget reconciliation, have been estimated to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to approximately 45% below 2005 levels over the next decade (by 2030). Emissions reductions from agricultural conservation and forest management comprise 8.1% of this overall estimate and together represent the fourth largest category of reductions. These benefits would be achieved by a suite of climate-focused public lands management policies, together with voluntary and incentive-based programs for private working lands. As Congress continues to debate these and other provisions, we believe significant new investment and coordinated federal policy action are necessary precursors to realize the full contributions of America’s diverse farms, ranches, and forests – no matter what their size – to our nation’s climate goals. As extreme weather and climate-related disasters continue to affect communities, livelihoods, and the health of our natural and working lands, the time is right to put the correct policies in place so that American agriculture and forestry can do its part.
Congress and the administration should target bipartisan initiatives to increase incentives, promote innovation, unlock private capital, and reduce barriers to participation in climate-smart agriculture and forestry. Ensuring that government programs and financial capital are accessible to all producers and forest landowners, especially those who have been historically underserved by the USDA, will accelerate the shift toward more sustainable land management systems that provide meaningful climate and economic benefits. Priorities should be to:
- Expand federal financial assistance, technical assistance, and agriculture and forestry workforce development programs
- Strengthen integrity and transparency in voluntary carbon markets, support their economic stability, and reduce transaction costs for participants
- Spur new public and private financial and insurance instruments that remove barriers to broad adoption of natural carbon solutions
- Prioritize landscape-scale climate resilience to wildfire, drought, insects and disease and invasive species
- Foster agriculture and forestry technology innovation to make natural carbon solutions cheaper and easier to implement
The Task Force will release recommendations and policy priorities following final deliberations later this year.