Policy pennings: Biden's 30 by 30 plan and its efforts to conserve land and water

Harwood D. Schaffer and Daryll E. Ray
Agricultural Policy Analysis Center

We are writing this column on the Biden Administration’s climate plan and its impact on agriculture just ahead of a report on 30×30 that is to be submitted by the Secretary of the Interior in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the heads of other relevant agencies to the National Climate Task Force.

The 30×30 plan was included as an element of an executive order with “the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.”

Spike Jordan responded to the 30×30 announcement with a post at the “Fence Post.” He wrote, “the new Federal land grab is a serious threat to private property owners in the United States” (https://tinyurl.com/k4mevd2b).

U.S. Representative Tracey Mann from Kansas, in a tweet addressing the 30×30 plan, wrote “I am deeply concerned with Pres. Biden’s 30×30 plan. It is egregious that the Biden Administration would consider these land grabs to meet an arbitrary climate goal. I will continue to advocate for Kansas agriculture and work to stop Democratic overreach."

The response by National Farmers Union President Rob Larew stands in contrast to these statements. Larew wrote, “Climate change is an immense, complex crisis with far-reaching consequences. To be successful in our fight against it, we must approach it immediately and from every angle possible – just as President Biden’s economy-wide climate plan intends to do. National Farmers Union is especially encouraged by the administration’s focus on climate-smart agriculture, whose capacity for mitigation and adaptation has been largely overlooked until recently.

“We are also pleased that President Biden has instructed the USDA to solicit input from farmers and other stakeholders as they develop and carry out climate programs; though lawmakers and administration officials are generally well-intentioned, they may not always recognize policies’ unintended consequences. By offering farmers a seat at the table, they can ensure that programs are feasible and beneficial for all parties involved.

“In the coming months, National Farmers Union will hold the administration to this promise and work with them to flesh out policies that provide farmers with the support they need to implement solutions and build resilience."

While 30% seems like a large number, we need to put it into perspective. Currently, 12% of the land in the U.S. is permanently protected. At the same time, approximately 60% of land in the continental US is in a natural state.

That suggests that the remaining 18% will not have to come from agriculture alone, but could involve activities on other lands, as well.

As we await the 90 day report, we are well aware that climate change has the potential to have a significant impact on farmers and ranchers in the U.S. and around the world. Some are likely to see a significant reduction in rainfall, while others will see large rainfall events that will flood out crops and put cattle at risk. Growing zones could shift so that land that is highly productive today could be arid or under water in the future.

There is a significant possibility that farmers, ranchers and orchardists could be at greater risk from the results of climate change than from the 30×30 plan.

Harwood D. Schaffer is an adjunct research assistant professor, Sociology Department, University of Tennessee, and director of the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center. Daryll E. Ray is an emeritus professor, Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee, and retired director of the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center.