On Jan. 27, President Joe Biden issued an executive order on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” which is being referred to as the 30x30 Plan. There has been a lot of mixed emotions about this executive order, depending on which camp you find your beliefs in.
The environmental community has praised the president on taking such bold action and recommendations to his administration. On the other hand, those of us in agriculture, energy production and rural America have found concern, and I believe rightly so, in what this executive order seems to want to achieve.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this executive order, or who have not heard the “30 by 30” nickname bestowed upon it, let me give you some background. The moniker comes from Section 216 of the Order, Conserving Our Nation’s Lands and Waters. In this section it calls for a variety of agency heads, including the secretary of the Interior, secretary of Agriculture, and others to achieve the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030. This is a huge number.
For some perspective, this is equivalent of the additional land mass of two Texases to be conserved. Private lands will have to be in the discussion to achieve this and it is a scary thought for many rural areas where population growth, tax bases, and opportunities are ever decreasing.
Driving down the road in rural Montana, I have even heard concern on radio talk shows of being afraid that large portions of rural counties in the West would be purchased by the government or placed under conservation easements, providing little benefit to the local communities. Because where else will they be able to find large parcels of land to meet this objective? The Western states seem like the likely spot.
Recently, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA will add an additional 4 million acres to the Conservation Reserve Program and increase the financial incentive to enroll acres in this program, stating actions like this are in line with the 30x30 Plan. Also, while addressing a farm group, Secretary Vilsack addressed some of the concerns from this executive order head on.
Vilsack said, “There is no intent to take land away from farmers. The goal here is to create new opportunities.” This has been a major concern. I have heard many agriculture groups express concern that the government was going to be buying private land in the name of conservation.
In the Senate Agriculture Committee recently, Biden’s nominee for deputy of Agriculture secretary, Jewel Bronaugh, was asked about the 30x30 Plan. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) asked Bronaugh about the possibility that the government may acquire more land and she did not deny it—a concerning comment in my opinion.
While doing some research for this article, I came across an interesting article from the British news site The Daily Mail. In their story, one of the more interesting conclusions they jumped to in order to “Meet Joe’s Green Targets,” would be that red meat consumption would have to be cut by 90 percent and Americans would have a target of consuming 4 lbs. of red meat a year.
Now I read the executive order, and did not jump to this conclusion, but also would not rule out the possibility of this being a recommendation down the road. No matter what the science says, there is a huge misconception that red meat consumption has a negative impact on climate change. We must continue to combat that myth and tell our story of continual improvement and environmental benefits.
Agree or disagree with climate change, it is a topic that most Americans are aware of and it appears that this administration will keep as a priority throughout their tenure. It has been politicized. Some extremist groups have used climate change to put a target on the energy industry and agriculture. Under the Trump administration, it seemed that some of the administrative burdens that encroached on business and private property rights were removed. In my opinion, this made for better business and encouraged better management practices because those performing tasks at a local level know what is better rather than a blanket mandate by the government.
One of the best comments that I have heard in regard to this plan came from Sen. Thune from South Dakota stating, “The federal government can’t maintain the land it has and shouldn’t be purchasing more.” Please reach out to your elected officials and express to them your concerns about the 30x30 Plan and do not be afraid to tell your story of environmental benefits, and please continue to pray for rain. — DEVIN MURNIN