Support Foresters, Farmers, and Ranchers Using Responsible, Climate-Friendly Land Practices
Not all agriculture is good for the planet, but regenerative agriculture and forestry practices are climate-friendly, not only sequestering carbon, but building healthy soil that retains water and increases habitat for wildlife and pollinating insects. These methods have been used by Black and Indigenous communities for generations, and they are increasingly being employed more broadly by farmers across the country.
The gold standard of regenerative farming practices is managed grazing (also called intensive rotational grazing), in which ruminants like cattle, sheep, or goats graze on a rotation of perennial grasses. The practice sequesters carbon, builds soil health and moisture absorption, and reduces fuels in fire-prone regions. Pasture-based livestock farms and ranches also offer an array of beneficial environmental services and contribute to the rural economy by providing healthy food for the local community. There is a wide range of policy options to promote healthy soils and climate-friendly farm practices in ways that will work in any political environment, and managed grazing should be incentivized and prioritized whenever possible.
State Policy Priorities
- Incentivize healthy soils.
- Prioritize managed grazing.
- Protect state forests.
- Nebraska (2019 NE LB 243) enacted legislation to establish a Healthy Soils Task Force, which is responsible for developing an action plan and timeline to implement soil quality benchmarks.
- Indiana (2021 IN SB 373) is one of several states that has directed state agencies to study and make recommendations for the role of the state in a voluntary carbon market.
- Colorado (2021 CO HB 1181), Texas (2021 TX SB 1118), and Maine (2021 ME LD 437) have established healthy soil programs or conservation programs that protect soil and water.
- Colorado passed legislation to launch a study on the biomass in the state and create policy recommendations for improving soil health, and another bill to leverage federal COVID-19 stimulus money to fund their soil health program (2021 CO SB 235).
- The New York (2021 NY A 5386) Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act establishes a program to assist farmers in improving the health of their soil. The bill creates a funding stream to support research and provides matching grants to fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, implement water management systems on farmland, and encourage soil health and resiliency. The program is designed to prioritize socially disadvantaged farmers.
- Minnesota’s (2021 MN HF 701) soil health bill not only centers race and equity but also sets an ambitious goal that 100 percent of tillable and grazeable acres employ cover crops, perennial crops, no-till, or managed rotational grazing by 2040.
- New Mexico (2021 NM HB 9) policymakers considered allowing taxpayers to select donating their tax refund to fund the state’s soil health program.
- Minnesota (2021 MN HF 701) lawmakers introduced a bill to establish soil-healthy farming goals and incentives. Policymakers can also consider incentives to employ responsible managed grazing practices on state-held lands.
- Several states have state National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)-like laws that trigger an environmental impact assessment (EIA) or review of any project that could potentially negatively impact state lands. State NEPA laws can be an important tool to protect state forests.