USDA leadership can transform forestry and soil carbon

Image: Immo Wegmann

Ground forest and soil practices in science

Soil and forest science is critical to the climate equation, and USDA would do well to invest accordingly. While there is a significant opportunity to further leverage forests and soils as carbon sinks, research is needed to better understand land management practices across geographies, measure and verify carbon storage, and develop the next generation of agriculture solutions. USDA can set a centralized, coordinated, and expanded research vision, working closely with Congress to ramp up RD&D funding in this area over time.

Embed equity and justice across program operations

Climate-smart practices must be accessible to underserved producers and forest landowners — contrary to USDA’s history of racial discrimination that has led to significant economic disparities among land managers. As USDA now seeks to redress past harms and implement policies that boost the climate resiliency of US lands, the Equity Commission should ensure that environmental justice deeply informs program design. The Government Accountability Office, too, should establish review mechanisms to root out discrimination.

Boost voluntary adoption by expanding technical support and financial incentives

USDA programs that support soil carbon education and assistance are underfunded and oversubscribed. One of the most effective providers of technical assistance and education in the US, NRCS, can’t meet the significant demand for conservation planning without increased funding at the federal level. Also, SARE — which supports practice adoption-focused peer networks — can be expanded to facilitate mentorship and technical knowledge sharing between land managers. In addition to program expansion, decreasing the administrative burden for producers to access these programs would increase engagement, particularly for small land operations.



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