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USDA’s $1.5 Billion Targets 180,000 Farms, 225 Million Acres for 30×30

Apr 11, 2024 | 30x30, Conservation Easements, Inflation Reduction Act, Liberty Matters

USDA’s $1.5 Billion Targets 180,000 Farms, 225 Million Acres for 30×30

The Biden Administration needs to acquire control of an additional 400 million acres to reach their 30×30 target to protect 30 percent of our land by 2030. Through a large flush of federal funds distributed to environmental groups in 2024, they could potentially add another 225 million acres of private land to 30×30 over the next five years.

On April 6, 2024, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced “the availability of an historic $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2024 to invest in partner-driven conservation and climate solutions through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)” as part of Biden’s 30×30 agenda (aka “America the Beautiful”).

The USDA announcement states: “Today’s action also advances President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative, a 10-year, locally led and nationally scaled conservation initiative that includes the voluntary efforts of farmers, ranchers and private landowners.”

The RCPP is a USDA program that grants federal dollars to environmental non-profits to create public-private partnerships for conservation efforts. This includes funding entities, such as land trusts, to place private lands under conservation easements in perpetuity.

Conservation easements on private lands is one of the categories that make up the 12 percent of protected lands the Biden Administration identified as already in the 30×30 program when they launched the initiative in 2021.

With this one RCPP round of funding, the administration could potentially add another 225 million acres to the protected 30×30 status, which would represent over 56 percent of the additional 400 million acres Biden is seeking by 2030. What portion of these funds will be used to purchase conservation easements in perpetuity is unknown.

What is known is that when this money is used for government or land trust purchases of conservation easements, the land is no longer private property. The conservation purpose enforced by the holder of the easement now controls the land, making the landowner the subservient owner of the property. Hence, the reason they meet the 30×30 threshold.

Regardless of what RCPP conservation vehicle is ultimately deployed, the use of federal dollars generates another problem for private landowners. They create a federal nexus to the private land potentially triggering other federal laws and future restrictions.

Additionally, the purpose for the IRA funded conservation programs has changed from those which are funded through the Farm Bill. The IRA funds must be used to carry out the administration’s agenda to control agriculture production. The specific language for the RCPP funds in the IRA is stated as follows:

“(i) shall prioritize partnership agreements … that assist agricultural producers and nonindustrial private forestland owners in directly improving soil carbon or reducing nitrogen losses or greenhouse gas emissions, or capturing or sequestering greenhouse gas emissions, associated with agricultural production;

(ii) shall prioritize projects and activities that mitigate or address climate change through the management of agricultural production, including by reducing or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions; and

(iii) may prioritize projects that … utilize models that pay for outcomes from targeting methane and nitrous oxide emissions associated with agricultural production systems.”

Those landowners who voluntarily enroll into these programs are giving the Biden administration the ability to ensure their operations mitigate climate change over food production.

The 2024 money is in addition to the funds expended through the 2018 Farm Bill that dedicated $300 million annually for these programs.

How much more money is being given to environmentalists through the IRA RCPP funds?  The answer is a lot: $200,000,000 for fiscal year 2022; $500,000,000 for fiscal year 2023; $1,500,000,000 for fiscal year 2024; $2,250,000,000 for fiscal year 2025; and $3,050,000,000 for fiscal year 2026.

Prior to 2023, USDA claimed under the RPPC program that they had made 579 awards involving over 3,000 partner organizations (land trusts) for 408 projects.  Go here to see the projects awarded in 2023. This “new” IRA money for 2024 alone will affect a potential 180,000 farms, a 441 percent increase.

Overall, in 2023, “USDA enrolled more farmers and more acres in voluntary conservation programs than at any point in history. This is in large part because of the Inflation Reduction Act, part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Investing in America agenda, which provided a historic $19.5 billion for NRCS conservation programs for five years to help implement climate-smart practices.”

NRCS claims on their website, they enrolled nearly 5,300 additional producers across 50 states into the four conservation programs that received additional funding through the IRA in 2023. All of these programs now obligate landowners to help manage their land to mitigate climate change.

This additional IRA funding alone has the potential to lock down the remaining lands they need to achieve 30×30.  Yet it is only one of the tools in the toolbox they are using.