In our polarized political climate, it’s heartening to know that some policymakers are working together on climate issues. The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is a Washington, DC-based think tank that looks to promote policy ideas from both parties to advance “health, security and opportunity for all Americans.”
BPC’s Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force is looking at how US agriculture and forestry can contribute to climate solutions. Co-chaired by former Senators Chambliss (GA) and Heitkamp (ND), the task force includes leaders from industry, agriculture and forestry, environmental groups and government.
Recently, this BPC task force invited Land For Good (LFG) Senior Advisor, Kathy Ruhf to brief the Task Force on considerations and policy mechanisms to promote farmland access and ownership. The group was especially interested in how land tenure affects how farmers could participate in, and benefit from, the emerging private carbon credit market. Kathy’s six years on the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee was a key reason for reaching out to her, as well as LFG’s nearly two decades of work on farmland access and land tenure on the ground with farmers and landowners.
Kathy presented basics concepts about farmland access, tenure and transfer. She noted that 40% of US farmland is rented, and that most farmers rent at least some of the land they farm. So policy incentives should address tenants, as well as owners of agricultural land.
She pointed to several LFG policy reports that delve into the relationship between tenure and farm practices, and also contain lists of policy recommendations. LFG’s paper on changes to capital gains rules, co-authored by American Farmland Trust and National Young Farmer Coalition, has been under consideration by the task force. Kathy emphasized the role of non-farming landowners and exiting farmers in how land will be held and managed in the future. In response to a question from Sen. Chambliss, she reflected on ways to overcome barriers that older farmers face in adopting practices to sequester carbon, a key interest of the task force.
According to Lesley Jantarasami, the managing director of the BPC Energy Program, the task force is finalizing a set of recommendations.