In an effort to fight climate change, Cory Booker wants the U.S. government to plant billions of new trees.
The New Jersey senator released a climate change bill Thursday aimed at sequestering carbon emissions, reducing agriculture emissions through farm conservation practices, and restoring wetlands. It would also implement a "massive reforestation" effort by planting over four billion trees by 2030 on federal, state, tribal and non-governmental lands and 15 billion trees by 2050.
Over 100 million of the new trees would be planted in low-income and minority neighborhoods, according to the bill, which Booker has dubbed the "Climate Stewardship Act of 2019." The legislation comes as much of the massive Democratic presidential field.
A senior Senate aide said the bill, which is endorsed by over 60 farmer, environmental and forestry organizations, is expected to cost $260 billion over ten years.
In addition to the planting of billions of new trees, which absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, the bill would steer additional funds to a number of already-existing Department of Agriculture conservation programs. The bill singles out the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Rural Energy for America Program for increased funding.
A senior Senate aide told CBS News investment in these four agricultural programs will have the "biggest climate change benefit and greenhouse gas benefit." Some of the funds will be used for processes that protect soil from degrading, such as the planting of tens of millions of new acres of "cover crops" and improving fertilizer efficiency.
The bill also plans to restore over 2 million acres of wetlands by 2030 and to re-establish the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal-era work program. Booker's team says the new CCC would give young people from low-income and minority communities the opportunity to participate in forestry and wetlands restoration.
"Farmers and ranchers are on the front lines of the dramatic changes in the climate that we're already seeing, and they have an important role to play as we move forward," Booker said in a statement. His office argues that the voluntary climate stewardship practices promoted by the bill will improve over 100 million acres of farmland while significantly offsetting agricultural carbon emissions by 2025.
"I've met with farmers and ranchers in New Jersey and across the country and in our conversations, they've consistently told me they want a seat at the table – to be part of the solution to this pressing challenge," the senator said. "So, as we move to quickly transition off of fossil fuels, we also need to show our independent family farmers and ranchers that they have a big role to play in a greener economy."
Jake Davis, who is the national policy director for Family Farm Action and a Missouri farmer, said this bill is a "first step" that builds upon existing programs. Davis said Family Farm Action, a left-leaning farmer advocacy group, has been in conversation with Booker's staff about the bill for months.
"We like the idea that this is built from kind of currently existing conservation programs that family farmers and ranchers are familiar with," Davis said in a phone interview with CBS News. "But it's on the scale and kind of aggressive approach to this, that we saw out of the New Deal and the response to the Dust Bowl."
Davis also said he hopes the proposed investments for the conservation programs can advance the conversation on climate change. "I think it will help farmers and rural communities embrace this idea of, you know, moving the needle on climate change, and that's going to be a good thing for everyone," Davis said.