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Rural America—particularly its farms, ranches, and forests—is vital to solving climate change. Forests absorb the equivalent of 11–15 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases (GHGs) while agriculture accounts for about 9 percent of U.S. GHG emissions. Under any reasonable scenario, meeting aggressive climate goals will require farmers, ranchers, forest owners and public land management agencies to prioritize climate mitigation across hundreds of millions of acres. Success will require new federal policies and, importantly, accelerated and substantial increases in public and private investment in land management practices that sequester carbon and reduce GHGs. That won’t happen without the combined support from rural voters and agricultural and forestry stakeholders. This report outlines a menu of policy ideas capable of both garnering the necessary support from rural America and helping the U.S. reach its climate goals through natural climate solutions. This report arrives at this menu of policies by focus on four questions:
(1) Where are the tons? Which agricultural and forestry practices result in the most significant GHG emissions reductions and sequestration, and where are those practices likely to occur? (2) Where are the stakeholders? What are the positions of stakeholders in agriculture, forestry, hunting and fishing, outdoor recreation, and environment/conservation with regards to climate policy on agricultural and forest lands? (3) What can we learn from state experience with natural climate solutions? (4) What suite of federal policies could get the necessary GHG reductions and win rural support?