Booker eyes farm conservation, reforestation and wetlands restoration in climate plan

Booker eyes farm conservation, reforestation and wetlands restoration in climate plan
© Aaron Schwartz

Presidential hopeful Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerPoll: Biden holds 10-point lead nationally over Warren Trump declines to participate in Weather Channel 2020 climate change special Bennet: Warren 'not being honest about' her 'Medicare for All' plan MORE (D-N.J.) on Thursday unveiled new legislation to combat climate change with a focus on farm conservation, reforestation and wetlands restoration.

The Climate Stewardship Act of 2019, which Booker says is inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, would work to support voluntary climate stewardship practices on over 100 million acres of farmland, plant more than 15 billion trees to tackle deforestation and expand urban tree cover, restore over two million acres of coastal wetlands and invest in renewable energy sources for farmers and rural small businesses.

Booker's legislation comes as the United Nations's panel of climate experts say the globe will need major changes in its land management practices, particularly across the agriculture sector, to stave off global warming. 

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“In order to address the urgent and existential threat posed by climate change, all of these approaches should be part of our broader strategy. In addition to transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy, another essential step that we must take is to increase the carbon sequestration in our soils, forests, and wetlands,” Booker said.

“This legislation will not only reduce emissions and substantially increase carbon sequestration, but will also create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, enhance biodiversity by restoring tens of millions of acres of habitat, and make our farms more resilient and competitive.” 

Rep. Deb HaalandDebra HaalandThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump's impeachment plea to Republicans US should oppose expansion of space launch center in Brazil Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists MORE (D-N.M.), chairwoman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, will introduce companion legislation in the House.

Like many other Democrats running for president, Booker has highlighted the urgency of mitigating the impacts of climate change, saying he would make it a priority in his administration.

The New Jersey Democrat cited recent reports identifying tree planting and ecosystem restoration as effective tools in mitigating climate change and detailing how farmers could bear the brunt of its effects, particularly in reductions to crop yields.

“After another year of extreme weather, no one understands the impacts of climate change better than our family farmers and ranchers,” he said. “While our farmers face unique impacts from climate change, our farmers are also uniquely positioned to capture and store carbon in the ground, produce clean energy, and to reduce emissions.”

Booker rolled out praise for the legislation from several agricultural groups, in an effort to help gin up support for the legislation ahead of its introduction. 

“Farmers need only look out our back doors to see how climate change is having a dramatic effect on our way of life,” said Wes Shoemyer, Family Farm Action board member and a Missouri farmer. “FDR knew in the 1930s that family farmers were the backbone of our rural economy and the best stewards of our natural resources. I'm excited that Senator Booker is taking a similar approach with the Climate Stewardship Act.”

The move comes on the heels of Booker rolling out an environmental justice proposal in April, saying that it was time to address regulatory practices at the Environmental Protection Agency. It also follows a proposal from 2020 competitor Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Four companies reach 0M settlement in opioid lawsuit | Deal opens door to larger settlements | House panel to consider vaping tax | Drug pricing markup tomorrow On The Money: Trump dismisses 'phony Emoluments Clause' after Doral criticism | Senate Dems signal support for domestic spending package | House panel to consider vaping tax MORE (D-Mass.), who on Thursday rolled out her own plan for dealing with climate change through agriculture.

Rebecca Beitsch contributed reporting.