With FDR’s New Deal as Blueprint, Booker Introduces Climate Change Bill Focused on Investing in Farm Conservation Programs, Reforestation, and Wetlands Restoration
Proposal calls for funding voluntary farm stewardship on >100 million acres, planting >15 billion trees, restoring >2 million acres of coastal wetlandsSeptember 10, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) today introduced a climate change bill focused on voluntary farm and ranch conservation practices, massive reforestation, and wetlands restoration. The Climate Stewardship Act of 2019, inspired by measures implemented in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, would support voluntary climate stewardship practices on more than 100 million acres of farmland, plant more than 15 billion trees to revive deforested landscapes and expand urban tree cover, reestablish the Civilian Conservation Corps — one of the New Deal’s most popular programs, restore over two million acres of coastal wetlands, and invest in renewable energy for farmers and rural small businesses in the spirit of the New Deal’s Rural Electrification Act, which provided low-cost loans to help bring electricity to rural America. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), Chairwoman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands will lead companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
In the wake of last year’s dire United Nations report detailing the urgency and scale at which we must act to address the climate change crisis and reach net zero emissions, this legislation provides nature-based solutions to remove heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Federal greenhouse gas inventories show that currently our soils, forests, and wetlands sequester approximately 11 percent of all U.S. emissions, but the potential exists to substantially increase such sequestration by implementing the types of natural climate solutions included in this proposal — planting more trees, restoring wetlands, and greatly scaling up the adoption of farm and ranch conservation practices.
A recent report identified tree planting and ecosystem restoration as one of the most effective potential solutions to mitigating climate change. The trees planted by this bill will sequester over 13 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to more than two years of current total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
“In FDR’s New Deal, the federal government planted billions of trees, provided conservation incentives to family farmers and ranchers, created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Civilian Conservation Corps, and electrified rural America. In order to address the urgent and existential threat posed by climate change, all of these approaches should be part of our broader strategy. In addition to transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy, another essential step that we must take is to increase the carbon sequestration in our soils, forests, and wetlands,” Senator Booker said. “This legislation will not only reduce emissions and substantially increase carbon sequestration, but will also create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, enhance biodiversity by restoring tens of millions of acres of habitat, and make our farms more resilient and competitive.”
“Climate change is an immediate threat our communities face that calls for bold solutions. However, deforestation and some current agricultural practices are making global warming worse. I’m excited to work with Senator Cory Booker on the Climate Stewardship Act, to incentivize farming practices that reduce emissions and promote reforestation. These steps are important to reversing climate change impacts that threaten the health and safety of our communities and our planet,” Rep. Deb Haaland said.
The 2018 National Climate Assessment details how farmers and ranchers are already being harmed by climate change, and outlines how rising temperatures and extreme weather could lead to substantial reductions in future crop yields in many regions of the country.
“After another year of extreme weather, no one understands the impacts of climate change better than our family farmers and ranchers,” Senator Booker said. “While our farmers face unique impacts from climate change, our farmers are also uniquely positioned to capture and store carbon in the ground, produce clean energy, and to reduce emissions. The same farmland practices that store carbon and reduce emissions also improve the ability of our farms to withstand extreme weather, reduce water pollution and protect drinking water, and reduce flood damages by storing and slowly releasing flood waters.”
"Farmers need only look out our back doors to see how climate change is having a dramatic effect on our way of life,” said Wes Shoemyer, Family Farm Action Board Member and Missouri Farmer. “The farmers I know are great patriots and so they stand ready to be part of the solution. FDR knew in the 1930s that family farmers were the backbone of our rural economy and the best stewards of our natural resources. I'm excited that Senator Booker is taking a similar approach with the Climate Stewardship Act."
“The Climate Stewardship Act is the most ambitious legislation in our nation’s history to mobilize America’s forests as a climate change solution,” said Jad Daley, President and CEO of American Forests, the nation’s oldest forest conservation organization founded in 1875. “With this visionary proposal to plant billions of trees across America, including cities, Senator Booker has shown how smart federal investment can dramatically increase the power of forests to naturally capture our carbon emissions. Best of all, the Climate Stewardship Act brings everyone on board to help, in cities and rural communities alike, and creates paid employment for people who need these opportunities most. As the organization that spurred creation of the original Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, American Forests especially appreciates this focus on creating green jobs from the important work of solving climate change with forests.”
"We need bold action to address climate change, and land protection and restoration are an important part of the solution. This legislation lays out a comprehensive strategy to store carbon and reduce emissions on federal, state, local and private lands throughout the nation,” said Michele Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
"Ranchers are feeling the effects of a changing climate today,” said Brad Buchanan, Owner, Flying B Bar Ranch, Colorado Rancher and Board Member of American Grassfed Association. “The Climate Stewardship Act will help us begin to address that challenge. Keeping cattle on grass that is grazed well is part of the solution. The tools in this legislation support important conservation practices while allowing us to continue to be productive on our ranches."
“Farmers in the Midwest are some of the hardest hit when it comes to extreme weather events,” said Sherri Dugger, executive director of Indiana Farmers Union. “The Climate Stewardship Act offers several ways to help independent family farmers better weather these events. It provides support for local food systems, rural energy, community food projects, farm and ranch stress assistance—farmers need these initiatives to build more robust local food systems, along with the incentives to help them mitigate climate change.”
"New England Farmers Union is pleased to see Senator Booker tackle a critical issue for farmers in the Northeast with the Climate Stewardship Act,” said Roger Noonan, President of New England Farmers Union. “As a result of climate change, we've seen a tremendous increase in extreme weather events in the northeast. This bill will provide farmers and forest landowners with additional tools and resources to improve the resiliency of working lands to adapt and mitigate the impacts of a changing climate."
The Climate Stewardship Act will:
- Plant over 4 billion trees by 2030, and 15 billion trees by 2050, on a combination of federal, state, local, tribal, and non-governmental lands. The ambitious level of tree planting outlined in the Climate Stewardship Act makes it the biggest reforestation measure ever to be introduced in Congress.
- Plant over 100 million of these trees in urban neighborhoods across America, with the priority going to low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. In addition to sequestering carbon, trees also absorb harmful air pollutants and reduce temperatures in urban areas.
- Support voluntary climate stewardship practices on over 100 million acres of farmland, reducing or offsetting agricultural emissions by one-third by 2025, through:
- Providing tens of billions of dollars of supplemental funding for USDA working lands conservation programs, with new funding dedicated to stewardship practices such as rotational grazing, improved fertilizer efficiency, and planting tens of millions of new acres of cover crops.
- Protecting millions of acres of environmentally sensitive farmland.
- Doubling funding for agricultural research programs, including more funding for soil health demonstration trials.
- Tripling USDA funding to provide farmers with expert technical assistance on climate stewardship practices.
- Providing grant funding to tens of thousands of farmers, ranchers and rural businesses for renewable energy production, such as solar panels and wind turbines, and energy efficiency improvements.
- Invest in local and regional food systems to increase resilience in rural and urban communities.
- Restore or protect over 2 million acres of coastal wetlands by 2030 to sequester carbon emissions and reduce coastal flooding. Coastal wetlands act as an important sponge during extreme weather events with heavy rainfall. For example, although New Jersey has lost more than 40 percent of its coastal wetlands, the wetlands remaining helped prevent $625 million of property damage during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
- Reestablish the Civilian Conservation Corps to provide youth from low-income communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color with skills and work experience in forestry and wetlands restoration.
The Climate Stewardship Act of 2019 is co-sponsored by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and endorsed by more than 70 farmer, environmental, restoration, and forestry organizations. A full list of endorsing organizations can be found here.
Background on Booker's work fighting climate change and eliminating environmental injustice:
Booker has been a leader in efforts to combat climate change and plays an active role in shaping policies that protect clean air, water, and coastlines.
As Mayor of Newark, he saw the effects of climate change first-hand, particularly its disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income communities, and took action. Booker created the city’s first Environmental Commission and Office of Sustainability, which helped develop the city’s first comprehensive sustainability action plan for Newark to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Office of Sustainability worked with other municipal departments to reduce waste and improve efficiency.
As Senator, Booker helped lead a year-long effort in 2015 to extend critical tax credits for wind and solar energy in the Senate's end-of-year government funding legislation. This long-term extension for expiring wind and solar tax credits is one of the most important pieces of climate change legislation that actually passed the Senate and became law in recent years.
Booker has also aggressively fought offshore drilling and seismic testing, which has serious impacts on a coastal state like New Jersey. He introduced legislation to prohibit oil, gas, and methane hydrate-related seismic activities in the Atlantic Ocean, pressured the Obama Administration to ban offshore drilling in deep water canyons off the New Jersey coast, and urged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to deny seismic survey applications for oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic.
Booker was an original cosponsor of the 100 BY '50 Act, introduced by Sen. Merkley (D-OR), which would transition the United States to 100% clean energy by 2050. He is also a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution, which contains a job guarantee component that is largely modeled off of Booker’s landmark federal jobs guarantee legislation. And he is the author of sweeping legislation to address the environmental injustices that harm communities of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities around the country.
Background on Booker's work fighting for family farmers and ranchers:
As Mayor of Newark, Booker witnessed how our broken food system harmed local residents, as large sections of Newark were essentially "food deserts", where communities had no access to healthy foods. Upon joining the Senate and hearing from family farmers and ranchers from New Jersey and beyond, Booker saw how the same food system that was harming families in Newark was also hurting family farmers and ranchers around the country.
Beginning in 2016, Booker introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) to reform commodity checkoff programs. These programs have received criticism for a lack of transparency, apparent conflicts of interest, misuse of funding, and anticompetitive behavior, all of which harms the family farmers and ranchers who are forced to pay into these programs. Booker and Lee have introduced the bill each session of Congress.
Last year, Booker and Lee also introduced legislation to reform the EQIP program, which provides farmers and ranchers with federal cost-share grants to implement environmentally-beneficial conservation practices on working agricultural lands, in order to better prioritize taxpayer dollars to support the most effective farm conservation practices.
During the Farm Bill debate in the Senate last year, Booker introduced amendments to protect contract farmers from retaliation from the large, vertically-integrated agribusiness firms that will often punish the farmers if they speak to their Members of Congress or USDA officials, and to require the large integrators to provide more transparency in their payments to contract farmers. He also spoke about these issues on the Senate floor.
Booker is also the co-author of legislation that would place an immediate and indefinite moratorium on acquisitions and mergers in the food and agriculture sector.