The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Initiative advances innovative climate and conservation policies that deliver economic and environmental benefits across rural America. This report identifies best practices, gaps, and opportunities for improvement in the outreach and technical assistance provided through USDA and other federal conservation programs. Although often overlooked in the context of leveraging nature to address climate change, outreach and technical assistance are critical tools to maximize the climate benefits of federal programs. Three key insights motivated our research in this area:
- Natural climate solutions (NCS) are practices that enhance carbon storage or avoid greenhouse gas emissions from natural and working lands. They are key to meeting climate goals and can deliver strong economic and environmental co-benefits for rural communities.
- Without more effective recruitment of private forest landowners, farmers, and ranchers, the United States will not be able to scale up implementation of NCS and realize these benefits.
- With improvement, existing conservation assistance programs offer an opportunity to scale up carbon removal and emission reduction practices.
With the benefit of supplemental information gathered through multiple informal stakeholder discussions, we identify four existing mechanisms for conducting outreach and providing technical assistance related to climate-friendly conservation practices for farms, ranches, and forests:
- Word of mouth and “meeting people where they are”
- Specialized government program support
- Formal partnerships and third-party support
- Social media and digital tools
Even with existing support and outreach mechanisms, producers and landowners still face challenges to participating in conservation programs and adopting NCS practices. We discuss barriers that limit the extent of services programs can provide and barriers that limit participation in conservation programs.
- Funding and staffing levels
- Data access and sharing
- Lack of private sector engagement
- Cultural and demographic factors
- Land ownership and land tenure issues
- Measurement and data limits
- Economic considerations
- Administrative hurdles
By providing a nonexhaustive list of possible opportunities for improvement, we hope to offer a starting point for future conversations around policy options to address these barriers
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