If you’re excited about the potential of soil carbon sequestration to reverse climate change, the Climate Stewardship Act of 2019 is the bill you’ve been waiting for.
Sponsored by presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), chairwoman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, this bill would fund natural carbon sequestration through voluntary farm stewardship on more than 100 million acres.
The Climate Stewardship Act would also fund the planting of more than 15 billion trees and the restoration of more than 2 million acres of coastal wetlands.
TAKE ACTION: Ask your Senators and U.S. Representative to cosponsor the Climate Stewardship Act of 2019.
Contrary to stereotypes of farmers as climate-deniers, if it were up to them, the U.S. would be sequestering a lot more carbon on farms and ranches—if only Congress would provide the funding.
The regenerative and organic agriculture practices that increase soil carbon sequestration are well known and catalogued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
In fact, ever since NRCS was created in 1933 to address the Dust Bowl (it was originally called the Soil Conservation Service), NRCS has been home to voluntary programs that train—and even pay—farmers to increase soil carbon. The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is the largest of the NRCS programs, with more than 70 million acres enrolled.
But in recent years, CSP has had to turn away as many as 75 percent of qualified applicants. Thanks to budget cuts in last year’s Farm Bill, CSP will soon be leaving out even more would-be carbon farmers.
The Climate Stewardship Act would close this gap by increasing CSP’s mandatory funding to $7 billion per year by 2024. It would also shore up the other USDA programs that increase carbon sequestration on farms and ranches by:
• Enrolling 4.6 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program’s Grasslands Initiative to help ranchers maintain and enhance conservation cover on working grazing lands.
• Expanding the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to cover “climate stewardship practices,” defined in the bill as soil health, nutrient management, grazing and pasture, or forestry management practices recognized by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service as being highly effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing carbon sequestration. Funding for these practices would increase to $7 billion per year by 2024, resulting in more than 100 million acres engaged. This would include increasing funding for Conservation Innovation Grants to $200 million per year and the Soil Health Demonstration Trials to $100 million per year.
• Doubling annual mandatory funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program from $450 million per year to $900 million per year.
• Tripling mandatory funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program from $300 million per year to $1 billion per year.
• Doubling funding for agricultural research programs, with new funding dedicated to research focused on reducing emissions and increasing resilience in the agriculture sector by increasing soil health and sequestering more carbon.
• Tripling funding for the Conservation Technical Assistance program to help farmers and ranchers as they adopt practices to reduce emissions and respond to climate change.
The Climate Stewardship Act was introduced on the same day that the United Nations released “Climate Change and Land,” a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. (Read the IPCC report here. Watch the IPCC press conference here.)
The report warns that, with more than 500 million people today living in areas where the land cannot provide adequate food, world food security is increasingly at risk due to unprecedented climate change impacts. The UN urges all countries to commit to agricultural practices that build up carbon in soils to reverse desertification and drawdown excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The U.S. could make that happen by passing the Climate Stewardship Act. Please ask your Senators and U.S. Representative to cosponsor this bill.