30 x 30 wrong approach to conservation, senator says

I’ve said it time and time again, farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists. Nobody is more motivated to leave our environment cleaner, healthier, and safer for our children and grandchildren than the folks who work the land day in and day out to feed, fuel, and clothe the nation and the world.

But President Joe Biden seems to disagree. His directive to conserve at least 30% of our private lands and waters by 2030, commonly known as 30 by 30, is another example of the left’s disconnect with reality. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a fellow Kansan, hit the nail on the head when he said, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” President Biden’s 30 by 30 is a prime example of the very disconnect Eisenhower was referencing between the people who tend the land and livestock every day and D.C. bureaucrats. This disconnect is exactly why I introduced the 30 x 30 Termination Act—to prevent even more excessive government overreach.

We have to ask what this directive means for the people of Kansas—not only for private landowners, but also, those who are indirectly impacted by agriculture being the largest economy in Kansas. Considering almost 90% of the land in Kansas is agricultural, if we are required to conserve almost 16 million acres, agriculture and jobs that depend on it will be greatly impacted.

We already know the US. Department of Agriculture is expanding the Conservation Reserve Program—2.1 million acres of land is already enrolled in CRP. Expanding that number takes land out of production. Unproductive land in turn decreases the economic activity in agriculture and diminishes our ability to feed an ever-growing world population. Keep in mind, the United States is also losing productive farmland to urban sprawl every year.

Imagine if you will, taking 30% of agricultural land out of production. This means losing 30% of all agricultural related employment, leaving 75,000 Kansans without jobs. As far as the Kansas economy goes, this means losing 30% of all direct, indirect, and induced agricultural production—that’s more than $21 billion in output for our state. These dollars and jobs won’t just be lost on rural main streets—this impact would be felt by the farmer on a turn row as well as the Kansas City businessman making deals in an executive boardroom. It could cause rural hospitals to close, schools to consolidate, small county seats to cease to exist—absolutely devastating rural Main Street and the suburban kitchen table not long after. Imagine paying over a third more for your groceries or at a restaurant. Imagine having to drive even further to another town because staple stores on main street had to shut down.

It’s a double whammy: less economic activity and higher cost of living. I need not remind folks that agriculture and its related businesses have roughly a $30 billion impact on the Kansas City region and supports more than 100,000 jobs in the greater Kansas City area. Losing $10 billion and 34,000 jobs would devastate Kansas City where our agricultural products routinely pass through on trucks, trains and barges. Wichita could lose over 2,100 jobs and $600 million.

The bottom line is we don’t know exactly where this proposal is headed or how the economic effects will pan out. But one thing is for sure, if the anti-agriculture radical left is driving this agenda, then it will be disastrous for the state of Kansas. At the very least, America’s farmers and ranchers deserve a seat at the table when it comes to decisions about the future of conservation and land rights in this nation. But rather than establishing arbitrary requirements, by an arbitrary deadline, without clear direction and only the looming threat of losing productive land and economic activity, perhaps it’s time to trust the environmental judgment of farmers and ranchers and let them do what they do best: steward the land.

—Sen. Roger Marshall, R-KS, is a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forest.