Growing Rural Prosperity 

Governor Inslee's Plan for Regenerative Agriculture and Thriving Rural Economies

Today, America’s rural and agricultural communities face a triple threat. First, an urgent challenge from an erratic Trump administration that’s harder to predict than the weather. Second, from the cumulative impact of decades of America’s failure to invest in rural infrastructure or put the needs of family farms over the profits of large corporations. And third, a mounting climate crisis causing massive and accelerating harms. Together these three challenges place an untenable burden upon America’s rural communities and its farmers.

Under President Trump’s chaotic and wrong-headed policies, all three of these threats to rural America have worsened. The next President of the United States has the opportunity to take on all three crises, through urgent, long-term, and visionary reinvestment in a more resilient and prosperous rural America. This begins by pursuing the greatest opportunity for rural growth and wealth creation in the 21stcentury: investing in sustainable agricultural and land-based solutions that will both defeat climate change and provide economic prosperity for farmers and rural communities. It further includes new strategies for farm-based climate solutions and economic growth; federal support for new and diverse farmers, and farm workers; reinvestment in rural energy, water and broadband infrastructure; the protection of forest health and public lands; and more.

Earlier this month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a Special Report on Climate Change and Land, which showed that agriculture, forestry and land-use account for 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions — a substantial contribution to this worldwide existential challenge. And it demonstrated that climate change is driving dangerous desertification and biodiversity loss, and threatens global food supplies. But the solutions that agriculture, forestry, and land use offer in the fight against climate change provide enormous and promising opportunities for the next president to take action.

U.S. farmers have long fed and led the world in agricultural production and innovation. This intergenerational success story is central to America’s identity. But the growth and flourishing of rural America is not an accident; it was built by decades of smart policy support from a federal government that has consistently committed to strategic investments into agriculture and rural development. That is no longer the story today.

The Trump administration’s policies have deeply damaged America’s rural areas and its agricultural sector. In Iowa alone, farmers could lose up to $2.2 billion from Trump’s unnecessary and self-inflicted trade wars. Once-reliable export markets have been undermined by Trump’s schoolyard tariff fights with China – a cross-Pacific trading relationship that last year left out hundreds of millions in high-value crop sales from Washington state. Trump has also slashed resources for agricultural support, such as his plan to “cut and relocate and eviscerate” a critical federal agency that informs both policy and when and how farmers should plant, harvest, and sell their products. And on top of this, his racist agenda targets many of the farm workers who are the beating heart of the entire U.S. agricultural economy.

Meanwhile, America’s rural communities and its small and family-owned farms, are already experiencing the toll of deepening economic hardship, borne out of a legacy of policy failure ranging from a lack of infrastructure investment, to discriminatory programs, to unmitigated anti-competitive abuses from large agribusinesses. This is evident in a rural poverty rate that is 27% higher than in urban communities, and a slower rate of new business growth. While economic distress has declined in the overall American population over the past decade, the number of rural households in economically distressed zip codes has actually increased, despite the putative economic “recovery” of the past decade.

Adding to these powerful economic headwinds, today rural America faces the deep and unprecedented existential threat of climate change, which is wreaking havoc on crops, small businesses, communities, and homes – in floods, hurricanes, forest fires, drought, arctic blasts, and blazing heat waves. These harms are only growing: two recent studies published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrate the threat climate change poses on farmers and the food supply: one study found that climate change could cut corn production worldwide nearly in half, and a second found that climate change could cut vegetable production by 35%. These impacts hit low-income and marginalized communities first and worst. And unlike trade and economic policies, damage to our climate system cannot be undone, but instead threatens to permanently limit our productive capacity for generations, or worse.

Finding resilience in the face of these challenges is a core issue of economic security and justice, and it presents an urgent need for new and better policies from national leaders. But equally, solutions to the climate crisis, and to rural disinvestment, can unlock unprecedented waves of growth and innovation for rural America. This future calls for regenerative agriculture that rewards farmers for putting carbon back into the ground where it can improve soil fertility and crop productivity. Climate solutions and inclusive prosperity for the 21st century will come from new value-added agricultural production, community-led economic growth, and resilient infrastructure that will help to revitalize local economies.

Recognizing the powerful visions held by champions for sustainable agriculture and rural communities, Gov. Inslee’s Growing Rural Prosperity plan is built on 4 strategies and contains 15 policy initiatives that together create a strong framework for a prosperous and inclusive clean economy. 

Governor Inslee’s Growing Rural Prosperity Plan Is Built on 4 Strategies

  • Investing in Agricultural Innovations to Defeat Climate Change
  • Keeping Farmers Farming 
  • Investing in Rural Prosperity & Advancing Equity
  • Improving Forest Health and Protecting America’s Public Lands

1)     Investing in Agricultural Innovations to Defeat Climate Change

As president, Jay Inslee will launch a new Carbon Farming initiative to reward farmers for the environmental services they provide by removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere to build healthier soils, and by capturing methane. Inslee will triple funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to $3 billion annually, reform crop insurance, and expand other U.S. Department of Agriculture programs to promote climate-smart agriculture. He’ll establish a new Advanced Research Projects Agency–Agriculture (ARPA-Ag) and increase funding to Agricultural Extensions Services and land-grant colleges for next-generation agricultural innovations. And he’ll also create new standards — including a Clean & Renewable Fuels Standard (CRFS) — to drive the deployment of advanced, low-carbon biofuels, and sustainable bio-based products.

2)    Keeping Farmers Farming

The Inslee Administration will reverse Donald Trump’s chaotic trade policies and will take aggressive anti-trust action – through existing and expanded authorities at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) – against agribusinesses that are undermining small and family farms. It will reinvest in federal efforts like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Economic Research Service (ERS), and National Drought Resilience Partnership that are critical for America’s agriculture and food systems. It will take executive action and fight for legislation to protect the rights and health of farm workers. And it will support new, diverse, women, and young farmers.

3)    Investing in Rural Prosperity & Advancing Equity

Inslee will create a Next-Generation Rural Electrification initiative to revitalize rural economies through bottom-up strategies for renewable energy, efficiency, and transmission deployment, and using federal financing to retire and replace coal power plants polluting rural communities. Inslee will launch massive new investments in rural broadband connectivity, and, for the first time, require Big Tech companies to pay into the Universal Service Fund. The Inslee administration will fund rural infrastructure for drought-resilient water resources and floodplain protections – as Gov. Inslee has done in the Yakima and Chehalis river basins in Washington state. And it will use new and existing federal programs to support rural manufacturing and economic diversification, as well as healthcare and housing access and affordability.

4)    Improving Forest Health and Protecting America’s Public Lands

The Inslee Administration will incentivize and reward landowners for forest-based carbon removal, and launch a major reinvestment in the U.S. Forest Service to repair and sustain the health of federal forest lands. It will restore and enhance protections for America’s public lands, including fully and permanently funding the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), addressing the $12 billion backlog of maintenance projects on federal lands, and providing Americans with free access to national parks. It will fight to fulfill U.S. government treaty obligations to Tribal nations, and ensure new protections and restoration of Tribal lands. And it will put Americans to work in new service, training and employment opportunities in a new Climate Conservation Corps, based on the Clean Energy Service Corps that Inslee first helped create in 2009.

This Growing Rural Prosperity plan is the sixth and final major policy plan in Governor Inslee’s Climate Mission agenda. Inslee has now put forward a comprehensive, detailed vision for an all-out national mobilization to defeat the climate crisis, move to 100% clean energy, end reliance on fossil fuels, and create 8 million good, family-wage and union jobs building a just, innovative, and inclusive American clean energy economy. This sixth plan clearly demonstrates the role of the agricultural sector and of rural communities in overcoming the climate crisis and achieving a more sustainable and prosperous American economic future.

Innovative American farmers and companies are already leading in climate solutions — from start-ups like PowWow that uses data on water and energy use to allow farmers to reduce waste and save money; to Stonyfield Organic in New Hampshire which captures wastewater for biogas and utilizes plant-based plastics in packaging; to farmers like Jimmy Emmons in Oklahoma who has used no-till farming methods to reduce fertilizer and fuel costs; to the REG company that refines sustainable feedstocks into biodiesel, in Iowa and in Grays Harbor, Washington. And clean energy already is already a major job creator in rural America.

Instead of undermining farming and rural communities and leaving them high and dry in the fight against climate change, as the Trump administration is doing today, the Inslee administration will work to reinvest in America’s rural economy, and its workers, with bold new solutions for the multiple challenges they face.

The Growing Rural Prosperity plan builds upon the 5 major policy plans Governor Inslee has previously put forward under his Climate Mission agenda:

  • 100% Clean Energy for America plan: Bold standards that rapidly shift the economy to clean energy, with specific 100% clean energy targets for electricity, buildings, and transportation, and ending coal power by 2030.
  • Evergreen Economy plan: A transformative agenda to leverage $9 trillion to build the clean energy economy, spur innovation and grow 8 million good-paying union jobs;
  • Global Climate Mobilization plan: Using ambitious American leadership and every tool in foreign policy to catalyze transformative global climate action.
  • Freedom from Fossil Fuels plan: A plan to end all fossil fuel subsidies and giveaways, hold corporate polluters accountable, and close the door on America’s fossil fuel era.
  • Community Climate Justice plan: A plan that puts environmental justice and equity at the center of national climate action, with prioritized investments in front-line communities and in bottom-up strategies for a Just Transition.

Through these plans Governor Jay Inslee has proposed an all-out national mobilization to defeat climate change and build a clean energy economy, on the scale of America’s response in the fight against fascism during World War II. Meeting this unprecedented challenge must be the next president’s top priority and the organizing principle of the next administration. Rising to America’s Climate Mission will place farm families and rural communities at the center of rebuilding a more competitive, just, and inclusive economy. This is Governor Inslee’s plan to reinvest in rural America.

I. Investing in Agricultural Innovations to Defeat Climate Change

America can grow climate solutions and build thriving rural and agricultural economies by ensuring farmers and ranchers benefit financially and ecologically from the positive impact their crops and farming practices provide. Governor Inslee’s plan calls for creating new revenue streams to compensate producers for building ecosystems services, especially in the removal of carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in soil and forests. These investments in rural communities and a healthy climate create both economic opportunity and environmental protection: crop productivity, drought and flood resilience, stormwater retention, water filtration, air quality, and preservation of pollinators, and other biodiversity. By exploring new partnerships and programs in rural communities, America can create markets for products including: sequestered carbon, manure, municipal food waste, methane capture, low-carbon biofuels, other bio-based materials for buildings, and more. America’s prosperous clean energy economy can be achieved through new investments in rural communities.

These initiatives will need to utilize successful existing federal programs in addition to new investments and programs. But, to meet the speed and scope that the climate science demands, they must be scaled rapidly. States have already developed a number of policy innovations that improve economic security for farmers; Governor Inslee’s national program will build on this foundation. Programs will be structured to recreate agricultural markets by bolstering productivity and concentrating on farmer prosperity. In Iowa, the state Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship offers cost-sharing and discounted crop insurance for farmers who adopt no-till, strip-till, and nitrogen inhibitor farming practices, and deploy the use of cover crops. These programs have been in high-demand, with at least 170,000 acres enrolled in cover cropping for discounted crop insurance — providing farmers with economic incentive that provides a climate benefit. Meanwhile, in farming states as diverse as New Mexico, Nebraska, and New York, educational and grant programs are being used to enhance existing Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil conservation practices; and elsewhere around the country policies are unlocking economic opportunity for farmers by providing enhanced support for on-farm fertility through compost production, reintroduction of animals in crop systems, and rotational grazing in rangeland systems. Governor Inslee’s plans build off of these successful state programs with a national approach to support agriculture and defeat climate change.

The Inslee Administration will allow farmers to take advantage of the full value of enhancing soil organic matter and the variety of environmental services that come with it, including the increased nutritional density of food produced from farms with healthy soils and other benefits these farms can deliver for climate and public benefit.

Carbon Farming: Paying farmers for environmental services

To build economic security for agricultural producers, and to empower them as leaders in the fight against climate change, the Inslee administration will treat sequestered carbon as a new and profitable crop, and reward farmers who choose to support photosynthetic soil carbon capture and storage, or “carbon farming.” Carbon farming is the practice of growing crops while pulling carbon from the atmosphere back in the ground – providing “negative emissions.” Inslee’s plan calls for paying directly for and establishing markets that reward this practice, offering an added revenue stream for large and small farms alike. It’s estimated that at least 50% of the world’s soil carbon has been released as a result of land use change and monocropping. We know that carbon-rich soil helps defeat climate change, alongside other environmental and agricultural benefits. It boosts production and yields and helps create a sponge in the soil that allows for better absorption and water retention in the face of both flooding and droughts. One recent soil health project study by the National Association of Conservation Districts showed how a no-till/cover crop system could increase yields by $110 per acre.

The Inslee administration will build upon and expand existing programs and initiatives throughout the country that fairly compensate farmers for advanced soil and farming conservation practices and the ecosystem services they provide. These strategies include conservation tillage, diverse cover crops, and crop and grazing rotations — strategies that have been proven to increase soil-carbon from 1-2% to 5-8% over 5-10 years, allowing for the drawdown of as much as 25-60 tons of carbon emissions per acre. It further includes the preservation of marginal cropland as grass- and forest-lands, and action on other agricultural emissions – notably nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 250 times more potent than carbon, which accounts for more than 50% of U.S. cropland greenhouse gas emissions. It will also promote policies that reduce the use of petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, and protect pollinators – which are crucial to sustaining and rebuilding healthy soils and ecosystems.

The Inslee administration will take a holistic approach to environmental services, including water quality management throughout river basins, and appropriate payments for on-farm nutrient and waste management. The Inslee administration will restore data and science within the USDA to arm farmers with baseline data on life-cycle carbon impacts and environmental impacts from different crops and cropping techniques, as well as best-practices, and access to necessary technologies.

Carbon farming can help American farmers at the forefront of not only smart and sustainable agricultural business models, but of climate smart land-use that can lead the global economy toward an economically and environmentally prosperous future. The Inslee Administration will pursue a number of initiatives to support carbon removal and ecosystem services:

  • Paying farmers for carbon farming, with performance-based payments for on-farm carbon removal. This starts with developing metrics to certify the increase in soil carbon resulting from different carbon farming practices, by swiftly expanding, accelerating, and implementing Soil Health Demonstration Projects authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill, and utilizing data from successful initiatives like the California Low-Carbon Fuel Standard and the USDA COMET-Farm program. Then by determining the appropriate conservation practices and their climate benefit-value, and establishing payment systems and programs that reward producers who are storing carbon in their landscapes. This may include tapping into existing USDA programs such as the Commodity Credit Corporation and those of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and in the establishment of a permanent, sustained source of revenue for America’s farmers growing climate solutions.
  • Ensuring a climate-smart crop insurance program, which currently backs more than 80% of all major U.S. field crops, at a price tag of $9 billion annually, but does not account for the largest risk to America’s working lands: climate change. Key reforms are needed to protect farms, taxpayers, and the climate. Among them, the USDA Risk Management Agency, which runs the crop insurance program, will form new partnerships with regional USDA climate hubs, state universities, and land-grant colleges to implement reforms to account for climate risk in its actuarial tables, thereby incentivizing soil health and other conservation practices and guarding America’s farmers and its food supplies against future floods, drought, and extreme weather events. Additionally, for those producers who are implementing conservation practices on their land, the cost of crop insurance will be discounted, because their risk is lower. By accurately accounting for climate change in the crop insurance programs and rewarding producers who are working to decrease their risk through building soil health and storing more carbon in the land, taxpayers will save money over the long term as more producers are incentivized to harness the power of their land as a natural defense system against the worst impacts of climate change.
  • Tripling funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), to $3 billion per year, and building upon the 2018 Farm Bill which for the first time provided a general directive for the CSP to focus on soil health, and authorized soil planning and climate mitigation as activities eligible for payments from the program. The 2018 Farm Bill also increased incentives for crop rotation, cover cropping, and rotational grazing – all crucial strategies for soil health, carbon removal, and environmental conservation. Unfortunately, both the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills cut funding for the CSP, which must be restored and then significantly increased.
  • Expanding other successful USDA conservation programs, like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), and increasing their focus on climate-smart agricultural and land-use practices. In addition to the power of working landscapes to fight climate change by acting as a carbon sink, lands have many other ecological benefits, including building habitat for critical wildlife, providing natural water filtration, and physically buffering against extreme weather events. The CRP provides investment in farm conservation, including in preservation of marginal agricultural land as forests and habitat, and it should extend payments to cover preservation of marginal pasture land and the deployment of forested buffers separating livestock and streams, as well as ensure full consideration of climate benefits in providing adequate payments to farmers. The 2018 Farm Bill empowered the EQIP to invest in soil health testing and demonstration projects. And the RCPP is an extremely successful Obama-era Farm Bill innovation for which Washington state is a poster-child; agriculture-conservation partnerships in the Evergreen state have received nearly $50 million from the program for climate-smart water and fish habitat-restoration in the Yakima and Columbia River and Puget Sound basins; farmland conservation in the Puyallup watershed; private land forest stewardship in Southwest Washington, and more, since 2014.
  • Extending USDA conservation compliance measures to cover soil health improvements. Governor Inslee will expand FSA and NRCS programs that work to prevent soil erosion and promote wetland protection, to ensure that they also support on-farm improvements for soil health and water quality in farms’ conservation plans. Agricultural producers currently adhere to certain conservation compliance measures as part of programs that invest over $20 billion annually into America’s working lands. This program change will further promote carbon sequestration and healthy soils. 
  • Launching a targeted new Nitrous Oxide Management Strategy for nutrient management, starting with at least 5 million new acres of cropland each year, and increasing over time. To accomplish this the NRCS will provide technical assistance to expand implementation of its Conservation Practice Standards for Nutrient Management, in strategies that reduce of chemical fertilizers, and in the widespread adoption of the “4Rs” for nitrogen utilization — right source, right rate, right time, and right place. This program will work to directly combat the dangerous and harmful algal blooms that are appearing with increasing frequency and severity along the Gulf coast and can be traced back to increased levels of agricultural runoff, specifically nitrous oxide, as more fertilizers flow from farms downstream through America’s waterways. This program will be accompanied by voluntary technical assistance and incentives for on-farm fertility management including on-farm compost production and associated equipment. 
  • Building public-private waste management partnerships for better soil. One application of compost can help stimulate organic soil carbon sequestration for over 100 years. The EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management program already fosters partnership opportunities to reduce food waste in corporate supply chains as well as in federal agency operations. The Inslee administration’s EPA Climate Protection Partnerships Division will support the development of public-private partnerships to turn organic food waste into healthy soil amendments. Partnerships such as the Marin Carbon Project’s compost collaborative can help avoid methane emissions associated with food waste in landfills, and also promote carbon sequestration in agricultural and rangeland soils. These initiatives will ensure necessary compost pre-treatment to prevent spread of plant pests that threaten agricultural produce, particularly for economically and regionally-important crops.
  • Expanding the federal “sodsaver” policy to preserve grasslands nation-wide. This provision is currently implemented in the Northern Plains states to prohibit federal investment in carbon-intensive conversion of native grasslands into cropland. In addition to providing a climate benefit, this provision also provides a direct taxpayer benefit, in that it avoids public subsidy for agricultural production on marginal land. Governor Inslee will bring this successful federal policy tool nation-wide.
  • Expanding staff capacity at the NRCS by nearly 3 times, from 12,000 to over 30,000, to enhance on-the-ground support farmers and rural communities chart their own path for sustainable livelihoods and climate solutions. The NRCS is a successful trusted federal program that partners with farmers and conservation districts in nearly every county in America; it’s only limitation has been staff capacity. NRCS will work with farmers and rural communities to develop on-farm climate solutions and build local, bottom-up strategies and partnerships – including through Energy Districts proposed in Inslee’s Evergreen Economy plan – for rural prosperity in America’s clean energy economy.

Capturing animal waste for climate, farm & energy benefits

Alongside carbon removal, farmers and ranchers can provide an enormous climate benefit in capturing methane emissions from cattle, swine, and other livestock operations – and should make money in new markets in doing so. Agricultural producers will be increasingly rewarded for their methane removal practices, as another highly valuable ecosystem service, through rotational grazing, improved management of feedstocks, animal waste, and the deployment of anaerobic digesters and other strategies. Governor Inslee’s Evergreen Economy plan calls for supporting the deployment of biogas methane capture and utilization technology in wastewater treatment, livestock operations, and compost facilities. The Inslee administration will take action to end fracking throughout the U.S., and as it does so it will work with farmers to establish supplies of sustainably-produced biogas for energy needs that cannot be easily electrified, and that will provide value for farmers and local governments. Governor Inslee’s plan includes:

  • Rewarding the climate benefit of methane capture. Establishing payment systems through existing USDA programs that compensate farmers and ranchers for methane capture, similar to payments for carbon removal.
  • Promoting multi-strategy methane capture. Providing federal support and USDA technical assistance for various methane removal and management practices, including rotational-grazing — which can reduce farm emissions by at least 19% in the first year, and more over time. Plus other strategies like conversion to dry scrape, composting digestate, innovations in animal feed, enhanced solid separation, thermochemical conversion, and more. The EQIP, Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Agricultural Extension Services, and other USDA programs can be used to support these activities.
  • Deploying anaerobic digesters. Investing directly, through these same federal programs, in the deployment of anaerobic digesters to capture methane from livestock operations, for use in on-site energy generation or in reuse as a biogas replacement for fracked gas, for energy and industry and in the production of co-products. For example, the 5 Star Dairy in Elk Mound, Wisconsin, employs a digester that captures biogas to generate up to 775 KW of electricity — enough to power 600 homes. In addition to providing new resources for digesters, Governor Inslee will direct federal agencies to work to streamline federal, state and local permitting in the deployment of these technologies.

“ARPA-Ag” & innovative agriculture

American agriculture has long been a world leader in innovating scaled efficiency in food production and this leadership is needed now more than ever in the 21st century. The treatment of lands and soils will increasingly become central to restoring a carbon balance to the planet’s atmosphere because climate stabilization requires that all carbon emissions – both natural and human-caused – are balanced by carbon storage, including through an increase in the fertility and productive capacity of both cultivated and wild lands. That places farming communities and agricultural workers at the epicenter, once again, of America’s economic promise. Under Governor Inslee’s research and development (R&D) agenda, America’s farmers will do what they have always done: provide food, fuel, and fiber to a thriving global economy. Two key initiatives in the Inslee administration will be central to this task, and were first outlined in Inslee’s Evergreen Economy plan: Advanced Research Projects Agency — Agriculture (ARPA-Ag), and the addition of innovation to the practice of Agricultural Extension Services and land-grant colleges. The Inslee administration will promote sustainable economic development in rural America through research, development and deployment in the following programs:

  • Launching ARPA-Ag. Building on the success of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – which incubated the invention of supercomputers and the internet – and the subsequent scaling of ARPA-E at the DOE, it is time to bring systematic government research and deployment to rural America by launching ARPA-Ag to promote innovation and advanced research in farming and agriculture. This program will research crops and farming practices that maximize the potential to provide long-term natural carbon storage that makes a lasting contribution to cleaning the atmosphere. ARPA-Ag’s mission will also include harnessing the promise of bio-energy in deployment of farm-based district energy services and new zero-net energy and zero-water waste agricultural practices. Inslee will invest in the research and development of new systems that allow these farmers, who are large consumers of energy in pumping and moving water through agricultural equipment, to become hubs of locally generated distributed energy from solar, wind, farm waste and plant matter.
  • Expanding Agricultural Extension Services and land-grant colleges to further promote agricultural innovation, keeping American farmers on the cutting edge in farming practices, on-farm local energy systems, and new plant-based products. Expanded Extension Services will bring economic opportunity and renewed prosperity to farm communities.
  • At least tripling annual federal agricultural R&D investment, and directing research into sustainable, organic, and regenerative agriculture practices and crops. This includes investment in ARPA-Ag and Agricultural Extensions Services, along with investments in other USDA programs and other federal departments engaged in farm and forest research and innovation.
  • Investing in science to prepare rural communities and farmers for climate change, by directing the USDA to adopt comprehensive five- and ten-year plans focused on climate change, food supplies, and the related global challenges, and expanding investment in USDA’s regional Climate Hubs. Inslee will also increase federal support for state-led climate science and impacts research teams, often housed at state research institutions – like the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group that plays an invaluable role in Washington state, and helped inform Governor Inslee’s service and federal policy recommendations as part of President Obama’s State, Local & Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Resilience & Preparedness. 
  • Developing markets for low-carbon, renewable bio-materials. The Inslee Administration will pursue policies, such as expanding the work of the EPA Sustainable Materials Management Program and establishing a low-carbon or renewable materials standard to create a strong market signal to trigger investment into existing technologies that convert bio-materials into modern products. Farms can be sources of renewable materials. In many instances, the pound for pound value of materials, such as carbon fiber, is much higher than renewable fuels, so the incremental increase of costs associated with renewable feedstocks versus fossil fuels is much more within reach. Industrial plastics and materials manufacturing already accounts for an estimated 3.3 billion equivalent metric tons of carbon pollution per year, and is projected to occupy up to 20% of the global carbon budget by 2050. And every year approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans from coastal nations. Any comprehensive climate plan must reduce the use and target the decarbonization of these materials. And the good news is that American industries can build more sustainable materials, using sustainable bio-products and sequestered carbon materials, with opportunities for negative emissions while helping to grow rural and agriculture jobs.

Growing clean renewable fuels

Transportation is the largest single source of American greenhouse gas pollution. As such, each transportation fuel and mode should be scrutinized for their contribution to the climate crisis, and in the pursuit of alternatives that can help avoid climate change’s worst impacts. Governor Inslee’s 100% Clean Energy for America and Evergreen Economy plans lay out ambitious but achievable timetables for the transition to zero-emission vehicle fleets, as well as investment in public transit and other low-carbon transportation. They also lay out new requirements for cleaner fuels and investments to empower America’s farmers to help achieve the lowest-carbon alternatives — in particular for existing vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles, aviation, and more. The next president will have significant influence over federal biofuels policy, especially as the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) reaches a key moment in 2022 after which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and White House assume discretion over setting the law’s volumetric requirements for different fuels. In building America’s clean energy future, biofuels have helped drive the effort to develop alternative transportation fuels that will break Big Oil’s stranglehold on the political system, but not all biofuels have yet provided a significant climate benefit. Biofuels are clearly a part of America's clean energy future — as well as a home-grown source of fuel and job creation — and more policy action and research investment is necessary to develop their fullest potential. Governor Inslee supports the development of advanced, low-carbon biofuels that transport Americans and support farmers:

  • Putting farmers over Big Oil. Immediately halting and reversing the Trump Administration’s rampant practice of granting unwarranted Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) waivers to oil refineries and undermining American farmers and home-grown fuels in favor of Big Oil’s profits. In August 2019, the Trump White House and EPA announced special exemptions from federal fuels requirements for 31 different oil refineries, which renewable fuels advocates called “devastating” for Iowa farmers.
  • Creating a Clean & Renewable Fuels Standard (CRFS). Using existing federal authorities to transform the post-2022 RFS into a Clean & Renewable Fuels Standard (CRFS) that promotes low-carbon biofuels and more low- and zero-carbon alternative fuels, including electricity, that reduce climate pollution from vehicles in the transportation sector. Through this program the federal government will partner with fuel producers to achieve aggressive, continuous improvement in carbon performance of covered fuels.
  • Developing advanced low-carbon fuels. Investing in research, development, demonstration, and deployment of advanced, low-carbon renewable fuels, including via a new ARPA-Ag program, USDA Agricultural Extension Services, and in partnerships with the private sector and with state research institutions like Washington State University and Iowa State University.
  • Using federal purchasing power for clean fuels. Directing the USDA, Department of Defense (DOD), and other federal agencies to procure increasing levels of advanced low-carbon renewable fuels, including through authorities granted to the president through the Defense Production Act.

II. Keeping Farmers Farming

Today the combination of economic structures built to benefit large corporations, the Trump administration’s chaotic agriculture and trade policies, and increasingly costly disasters have altogether stacked the deck against American farmers.

Trump’s trade agenda has created costs where export sales and new market opportunities once existed. The rise of enormous agribusinesses in particular, has squeezed small family farms to the point of breaking. These large businesses, which have grown in size as they have merged vertically and horizontally, can now effectively set prices and control entire swaths of America’s agriculture sector.

We must simultaneously address the fact that farmers of color have experienced a legacy of discrimination and land left. And new farmers struggle to find the capital or land to even begin. Meanwhile, many farmers and farm workers find themselves under attack from the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies and its racist tweets.

Last year U.S. farm income hit a 12-year low, and earlier this year farm loan delinquencies reached the highest point since the start of this decade. Governor Inslee is committed to reversing each of these troubling trends – to ending Trump’s chaos governance, to supporting farmers and farm workers, and to stopping large agribusinesses from taking advantage of America’s rural communities.

Supporting prosperity and resilience for America’s family farms

The Trump administration’s disastrous trade and agricultural agenda is squeezing farmers and rural working families in real time. Earlier this year the economic pain from these policies has already grown so severe that the Trump USDA has been forced to put together $16 billion in federal funding to bail out farmers from a trade fiasco of the administration’s own making. But farmers don’t want bailouts, they want to be able to sell their crops that feed the world, and not lose out on international market shares that they have spent decades building.

Farmers are also getting hammered by corporations: Profits from today’s agricultural industry are consolidated in large agribusinesses, which have grown their market power both horizontally and vertically, and often now act as a monopsony – meaning that they exert total control in their market by holding all of the purchasing power, in the same way that a monopoly businesses holds all of the selling power. Just 5% of U.S. agricultural operations conducted 75% of sales in 2017. This has left small family farms to pay the bills and hold all the risk. Donald Trump’s agriculture policies have strengthened big agricultural corporations and emboldened them to squeeze family farmers.

As president, Jay Inslee will reverse this trend by confronting mergers, consolidations, and practices that have led to agricultural monopsony, and instead pioneer an agriculture policy that supports the producers who have underpinned America’s food system and rural economies. He will also end Trump’s attack on the USDA, and will reinvest in the federal programs that can sustain prosperity for agricultural and rural communities. The Inslee Administration will be committed to moving the burden off America’s small farms and rebalancing the scales to build wealth in rural economies, while harnessing the power of working lands to build healthy soils and fight climate change. This includes:

  • Ending Trump’s disastrous anti-agriculture trade agenda based on the president’s childlike fits and playground taunts. Rather than throwing tariffs at nations in fits of rage, the Inslee Administration will engage in thoughtful trade relationships that empower producers to sell to burgeoning overseas markets, while also getting tough with trade partners to protect American businesses – from dairy and beef, to apples, potatoes, and wine, to wheat and softwood lumber. The Inslee administration will rebuild a stable, long-term agricultural trading partners by increasing investment in the USDA Market Access Program to provide new resources to help American farmers bring their crops to market. Also, in his Global Climate Mobilization plan Governor Inslee has proposed using U.S. trade agreements and relationships to accelerate climate solutions throughout the globe – which must include more sustainable agricultural practices at home, and drive more sustainable agriculture and forestry practices abroad.
  • Protecting against agribusiness consolidation, by appointing Federal Trade Commission (FTC) commissioners who will aggressively enforce America’s antitrust laws and use them to protect family farms against irresponsible vertical and horizontal integration in the agriculture industry. Inslee will further work with Congress to update antitrust laws, and empower the Department of Justice (DOJ) to better protect against anti-competitive behavior in agricultural industries. 
  • Reinvesting in farm, climate, and weather data and planning, by repairing the significant damage that the Trump White House has done to USDA programs, such as his efforts to “cut and relocate and eviscerate” the Economic Research Service, and by reinvigorating and expanding regional Climate Hubs state and local agricultural data and planning programs.
  • Investing in Americans food security and supporting family growers, through existing federal programs like those supporting specialty crops and precision agriculture, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps more than 45 million low-income Americans with monthly benefits that can be used to purchase most foods and beverages — dollars that flow into supporting America’s farming communities in all 50 states. 
  • Helping farmers grow climate-smart products, by instructing USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to update the 5-year Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPlate Plan to include the carbon footprint of recommended foods and food groups. In the same way American’s are conscious of the caloric value of the food they put into their bodies, they should also be aware of the environmental impact of their consumption. Producers who employ conservation practices on their land will see the carbon footprint of their products decrease, which will be reflected in USDA Food and Nutrition Services materials. 
  • Building drought-resilient agricultural economies, by expanding investment in and focused White House coordination of the National Drought Resilience Partnership and related federal agency programs — including those at the EPA, Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). These agencies host programs focused on water use efficiency, aquifer recharging, water reuse, community response and recovery, and related drought-resilience initiatives. 
  • Giving farmers the Right to Repair their own on-farm equipment. Corporations currently force farmers to use authorized agents to repair machinery and other equipment on their own farms. The Inslee administration will support action at the FTC to ensure farmers have control, and easily accessible know-how, to swiftly and cost-effectively repair their own equipment.

Protecting farm workers’ rights & health from climate change

A robust agricultural economy must include new policies to support farm workers. For decades, farm workers have been left vulnerable – they have no right to join a union and few worker protections despite the fact they work long hours, doing physically demanding work, in extreme conditions. As temperatures around the globe rise, climate change adds new threats to the health of the farm workers who spend long days outside in hot, humid conditions. President Trump’s attacks on immigrants and America’s immigration system threaten the livelihoods of farmers across the country. The rural economy depends on an immigration system that is safe, fair, transparent, and reliable. As president, Jay Inslee will stand up for farm workers and make sure that investments in America’s rural economy include the laborers that put food on Americans' tables. The Inslee Administration will take action in:

  • Protecting farm workers from the impacts of climate change. Agriculture, fishing, forestry, and hunting sectors accounted for nearly 20% of all heat-related deaths reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – a number that has risen over time and will only continue to rise as extreme heat becomes more common. As president, Jay Inslee will take proactive measures to ensure protections for workers from extreme heat, including by directing the OSHA to be responsive to a petition for the “first federal standard that would protect outdoor and indoor U.S. workers from occupational exposure to excessive heat.” Governor Inslee will also work with Congress to pass the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, introduced by U.S. Reps. Judy Chu and Raul Grijalva, to make sure workers are trained to deal with heat exposure, have access to safe water and can take breaks to protect themselves.
  • Leading immigration reforms to support farm workers. Governor Inslee will reject the racist, anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration and work with agricultural leaders to develop strong systems for safe and respectful agricultural immigration. This includes undoing Trump’s proposed changes to the H2-A Visa, lifting caps on immigration, and repealing his discriminatory Public Charge rule. Governor Inslee’s America’s Promise plan outlines his commitment to just, efficient and humane immigration reform, including reforming the visa system so that it is sustainable and predictable; puts into place flexible caps based on labor market conditions, and reduces or eliminates backlogs; strengthens the family visa system and diversity visa lottery to promote family reunification as well as visa systems for victims of trafficking and violence. The Inslee White House will also convene a task force of all parties impacted by the H-2A guest worker visa program, led by representatives of agriculture workers and industry, to design reforms that meet the needs of both growers and farmers as well as the immigrant workers deserving of fair wages and strong labor protections. Expanded funding and visas approvals would be conditioned upon strong certification of compliance with requirements to verify an absence of qualified domestic labor or evasion of labor and wage law. In May 2019, Governor Inslee signed legislation to improve implementation of Washington state’s H-2A application program and enforcement of labor laws through a new state workgroup that brings workers’ interests and growers’ interests together. 
  • Protecting farm workers’ rights and allowing farm workers to organize and join a union. The Inslee administration will prioritize the protection of farmworkers’ rights, including the addition of farm workers to the National Labor Relations (NLRA) so that they have the right to join a union and organize for pay benefits and federal labor protections. Governor Inslee will also heavily restrict “no-poach” and “no-compete” agreements that limit a worker’s ability to move across jobs and seek better wages. 
  • Committing federal resources and strengthening laws to stop wage theft. Wage theft runs rampant in the industries that employ many immigrants. Governor Inslee will invest new funding in wage theft enforcement, incentivize co-enforcement with labor unions and community organizations, and prevent employers from receiving federal contracts and federal procurement if they have unresolved cases or aggravated histories of wage theft. In addition, Governor Inslee will work with Congress to: mandate pay transparency so workers can calculate their own pay; lift the statute of limitations on recovering stolen pay; protect wage theft whistleblowers from retaliation and create stiff new penalties for employers who repeatedly violate the law.

Helping diverse, beginning, women & young farmers succeed

Although America continues to become a more racially diverse nation, its agricultural sector is overwhelmingly white – in fact more so than at past times in history. It has been documented that farmers of color have less access to federal agricultural programs – due in part to structural discrimination. Farmers of color have been subjected to a history of land-theft and displacement. Between 1910 and 1997, an estimated America’s Black farmers lost about 90 percent of their farmland, worth hundreds of billions of dollars. We cannot strengthen the agricultural sector without confronting this legacy, because a food and agricultural system that is not equitable, just, and inclusive by definition is not sustainable.

Two-thirds of all U.S. farmland, over 570 million acres, will need a new farmer in the next 20 years, as older farmers retire. In 2019, America needs a new generation of farmers who will work with their hands to feed the nation, contribute to the economy, and also help feed the world. But making a living on the land is as hard as it's ever been, and new and young farmers are having a hard time getting started. Finding affordable land is regularly cited as the biggest challenge for new and young farmers – as well as the main reason why farmers quit, and why aspiring farmers haven’t yet started. Student loan debt is a significant barrier to success for young farmers; farming and ranching are capital intensive businesses, and when combined with thousands of dollars of student debt, many young farmers are denied the loans they need to start a successful business.

  • Leveling the farming field in racial equity. In confronting a legacy of past injustice in rural communities of color, an Inslee administration will work to address institutional discrimination within federal programs, and prioritize the protection farmers’ legal rights. The Inslee administration will also significantly increase USDA outreach and financing programs for underserved communities, including those that support land access, debt relief and refinancing, business planning, and climate resilience. These efforts will be informed by Equity Impact Mapping initiative proposed by Gov. Inslee in his Community Climate Justice plan, examining community disparities in economic investment and poverty, pollution, and climate change impacts.
  • Breaking down barriers for land access. The Inslee administration will work with Congress to expand funding for the Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program, which funds land-grant colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions and other organizations in providing education, training, outreach and mentoring programs for new farmers and ranchers. The Inslee Administration will develop and implement other incentives to allow young farmers to start and succeed in working the land – on new farms or those passed down over generations. Through federal incentives for those transitioning land to new farmers or incentivizing agricultural easements to keep land in production and away from the pressure of development, the federal government has a role to play in the transition of land to new and younger hands. 
  • Recognizing the public service of farming, by working with Congress to allow all young farmers and ranchers to be eligible for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, much like Governor Inslee has proposed for graduates entering the clean energy, sustainability, and climate science field. 
  • Supporting women farmers. Women now make up 36% of American farmers — a percentage that is growing rapidly, and should be supported in federal policy as a crucial part of building the 21st century U.S. agricultural economy. The Inslee administration USDA will work on policies and programs that support female farmers, in partnership with states — led by Washington state and Oregon, who have championed a related initiative through the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

III. Investing in Rural Prosperity & Advancing Equity

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal assured sustained federal financing for rural electrification and transportation infrastructure in communities that had been passed over due to the relatively high cost of serving users in rural areas. Today many of these programs still exist within the federal government, creating a structure for renewed investment in rural communities. The Inslee Administration will refuel and expand these New Deal programs once again to ensure that vibrant rural economies thrive with the benefit of modern infrastructure for agriculture, energy, water, broadband, and more.

Today, U.S. investment in rural infrastructure is a shadow of the New Deal era on multiple fronts, ranging from municipal water systems, to communications, to renewable energy deployment, to modernization of freight and passenger rail service and other transportation infrastructure. Rural communities were among the worst-hit in the Great Recession, and have seen some of the slowest recovery, if any at all. In recent years over 1 million Americans in rural areas found themselves newly living in economically “distressed zones,” even while the overall number of Americans in that category declined.

Governor Inslee’s Growing Rural Prosperity reinvests in America’s rural infrastructure in ways that expand opportunity for all, as an essential part of building a more resilient and sustainable economy. Many of the key programs to undertake this work are outlined in Inslee’s Evergreen Economy plan. In that plan, Inslee calls for over $9 trillion of public and private investment in jobs and infrastructure into every community in the country to fund a decade-long mobilization that will modernize and decarbonize the U.S. economy. As outlined in Inslee’s Community Climate Justice plan, the Inslee Administration will devote at least 40% of its rural climate and energy investments to low-income and disadvantaged communities, using Equity Impact Mapping and the Equity Screen for federal policy – all outlined in that plan. Key rural efforts include a program of next generation rural electrification, substantially increasing Rural Utility Service and Green Bank resources, plus new investments in water resources and floodplain management, and more.

Next-Generation Rural Electrification

During the New Deal, visionary policies fueled rapid expansion of rural economic development, through the Rural Development Administration (RDA) in the USDA. Many of these powerful instruments are still available and can be recharged to meet modern challenges. By harnessing and expanding tools that originally enabled electrification to span from coast to coast, America can once again enable investments in modern, clean, smart and affordable energy and communications infrastructure for thriving rural communities. This will include:

  • Doubling annual finance authority for the Rural Utility Service (RUS) to offer $8 billion in Treasury rate financing to hundreds of rural electric cooperatives owned by the 42 million rural residents they serve. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), RUS will support rural electric cooperatives with technical assistance and federal financing for investments in energy efficiency, energy storage, zero-carbon electricity generation, transmission, distributed renewable energy, community solar, smart grid technologies, and their enabling broadband infrastructure.
  • Using federal financing to buy out, retire, and replace rural coal plants. Governor Inslee is the only candidate for president who has stated unequivocally that the U.S. must retire and replace every coal plant by 2030 – as Washington state is doing under Gov. Inslee in closing its only coal plant and ending coal-power imports by 2025. As proposed in his Evergreen Economy plan, the Inslee Administration will use federal financing — like the RUS, and the newly proposed Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA) – to provide debt relief to allow rural electric cooperatives to write down or restructure remaining federal loans to provide early retirement and replacement of coal power plants and other fossil fuel assets. This will redirect billions of dollars from cooperative members’ power bills toward modern clean energy assets, including energy upgrades to their own homes and businesses. 
  • Expanding inclusive financing for clean energy upgrades. Utility investments in energy upgrades to homes and businesses can be recovered over time through service agreements that eliminate barriers to participation inherent to loan programs that involve consumer credit risk. This opens the doors of opportunity to all, regardless of their income, credit score or renter status. Through inclusive financing, leading electric cooperatives in rural areas of Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas have already achieved unprecedented levels of investment in energy efficiency upgrades, even in persistent poverty areas. Governor Inslee’s Community Climate Justice plan includes establishing a federal reserve fund to backstop inclusive financing for all cost-effective next generation improvements, such as efficiency, on-site solar and storage, and upgrades that displace fossil fuels in buildings and transportation while creating local jobs. 
  • Promoting new Energy Districts and rural Energy Democracy. Energy Districts, which are modeled on the Soil Conservation Districts established as part of the New Deal, draw on the experience of modern community energy districts that have taken root today. By increasing Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff throughout the country, the Inslee administration will build innovative local partnerships that promote locally-driven plans in rural communities for renewable energy, smart grid, and energy efficiency projects. Energy Districts will support economic development and diversification, agricultural productivity and sustainability, and pollution reductions. Today, the Winneshiek Energy District in northeastern Iowa is a collaborative community energy district that aims for 100% locally owned, efficient, renewable energy by midcentury – and serves as a model for what can be done around the country. 
  • Increasing rural energy efficiency investment. Governor Inslee has proposed a standard to ensure that all new buildings will produce zero carbon by 2030. He has also put forward a “Rebuild America” initiative focused on upgrading every existing building in America with clean energy and energy efficiency retrofits within 25 years, backed by an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard to ensure that utilities integrate efficiency fully within their system planning. This effort will have tremendous benefits for rural America, cutting bills for ratepayers, and upgrading existing building stock. Rate payers will also be supported by a Universal Clean Energy Service Fund modeled after a similar fund that successfully addressed digital divide concerns in the Telecom Act of 1996. And rural communities will be further served through significant increases in direct funding and financing from the USDA Rural Housing and Rural Business Service to fund energy-efficiency upgrades and on-site solar energy investments that lower utility bills and expand economic opportunity for homes, farms, and rural businesses. 
  • Partnering with rural communities in siting and construction of transmission and renewable energy projects. Long-distance electricity transmission lines are critical for realizing 100% clean energy for America, and represent an economic development opportunity for rural communities. Governor Inslee has proposed new investments, tax incentives and federal government development of clean energy and transmission assets. Crucially, the Inslee Administration will undertake this important work in collaboration with rural communities, and by embedding planning sensitively to local, state and tribal government approval processes.

Expanding rural broadband connectivity

Every facet of society depends on broadband connectivity. America needs a comprehensive vision to advance technology and give consumers the tools necessary to meet the challenges of the 21stCentury. From farms and schools, to fire trucks, to hospitals, to a park bench – connectivity is critical to participate in the modern economy and advance societal goals. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are without access to broadband.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that 24.7 million Americans do not have access to broadband. A more comprehensive look paints an even more dire picture: Factoring in quality and workable access, the Microsoft Corporation counts 160 million people who do not have access to high-speed broadband.

This problem is especially acute in rural and agricultural communities. According to Pew, rural consumers are more than twice as likely as urban consumers to have never accessed the Internet, and only 58% of rural consumers subscribe to broadband at home. Almost a third of U.S. farms do not have access to reliable internet, and rural communities are underserved and risk being left behind in today’s economy because the internet isn’t fast, and it isn’t accessible. Governor Inslee understands that modern rural agriculture and economies depend on access to the internet. In Washington state, he has invested in broadband expansion — especially for rural areas where it is crucial for small business growth and recruitment, not to mention everyday life. In 2019, Inslee worked with the Washington State Legislature to create a statewide Broadband Office, to serve in coordinating public and private initiatives to ensure reliable internet access for every community. Thanks in part to Inslee’s leadership, Washington state now ranks in the top 5 states in broadband connectivity, with a Congressional report estimating that just 3% of Washingtonians do not have access to broadband. By comparison, 15% of Iowans do not have access to broadband, 7% in New Hampshire, 8% in Nevada, and 18% in South Carolina.

Governor Inslee is committed to confronting the rural broadband challenge, by:

  • Investing $80 billion in broadband deployment to make sure every community has access to broadband to support their schools, their hospitals, their farms and their businesses. Estimates are that $130-150 billion in total funding will be necessary in the coming years to adequately support growing demand and rural demand. While much of that funding can come from the private sector, Governor Inslee’s commitment to broadband connectivity calls for significant direct federal investment, so no one is left behind. For instance, to cover unserved rural areas with 4G will cost $20 billion over 10 years.
  • Making Big Tech pay into the Universal Service Fund (USF). The USF should be updated into a broadband rural subsidy program by broadening the base of contributors. Currently the fund is financed through interstate phone call minutes and, as a result, revenue into the fund is dwindling. This funding is essential for ongoing support of the High Cost, Lifeline, E-Rate, and Rural Healthcare facilities. Big Tech companies have benefited from USF-financed broadband networks but have not been legally obligated to pay into the fund. The Inslee Administration will support updating the program to require Big Tech companies to pay into the USF for the first time. 
  • Expanding broadband access for Tribal nations. Inslee’s Accessible Broadband plan will commit billions to guarantee that every tribal nation has access to quality internet. Barely half of Native Americans living on American Indian reservations have internet access. 
  • Ensuring affordable broadband, by providing $5 billion in subsidies to low-income rural Americans to make sure internet is affordable even in these hard-to-serve areas. If private companies will not provide broadband service, Inslee will work with public entities to create community broadband access. 
  • Restoring Net Neutrality. As Governor, Jay Inslee signed the first state law protecting net neutrality. As president, Inslee will reinstate net neutrality to protect the internet for everyone. Governor Inslee commits to only appointing FCC commissioners that support net neutrality. 
  • Removing barriers to locally owned and created broadband networks. Every community should have the ability to build a broadband network — and local control and ownership can deliver more local benefit. Some telecommunications giants have convinced states to bar local internet providers, and currently a number of states ban public utilities or municipalities from offering broadband services. Governor Inslee will remove those arbitrary restrictions and allow every provider willing to meet core accessibility standards the ability to provide internet. 
  • Supporting a nationwide public safety network, FirstNet, which has received $7 billion in federal investment, to date — a start, but not enough to complete the network. Additional funds are needed to speed up the construction of this important network. In addition, many 911 call centers cannot manage the load of text messages and often cannot support video, which can leave first responders in dangerous situations. Governor Inslee’s plan will invest in local 911 call center upgrades, especially in rural communities.
  • Ensuring school broadband access, through investment in and greater accessibility to the federal E-Rate program. This is essential to closing the digital divide and unequal access to opportunity for rural Americans. Educating has become more digital; many schools have gone completely digital with all homework and coursework completed on netbooks. But schools are having a difficult time keeping their networks updated to provide the connectivity necessary to meet the demands of students and teachers in the classroom. Likewise, with increasing movement of higher education and advanced professional curriculum online, access to broadband is now essential infrastructure for lifelong professional advancement, economic opportunity, and new business formation and entrepreneurship. 
  • Ensuring union jobs and prevailing wages. Governor Inslee will make sure all rural broadband projects – like every federally-funded infrastructure project – pay a prevailing wage and use Project Labor Agreements and Community Benefit Agreements. This will help build the rural economy and set a fair standard for workers.

Supporting Manufacturing & Economic Diversification in Rural America

While farming, forestry, mining, and other natural resource dependent industries occupy a special place in rural economies, service-sector and manufacturing industries actually represent larger sources of both employment and earnings in rural America. In fact, manufacturing jobs represent a higher percentage of total employment in rural counties than they do in metropolitan counties. 

To promote economic development, business growth, and increased prosperity in rural America, this plan places a special focus on expanding manufacturing, value added production, local business growth, and supply chain development, to ensure that strong and diverse regional economies result. Governor Inslee’s proposals for rebuilding an Evergreen Economy, grounded in climate solutions and job creating infrastructure modernization, promise to provide special benefit to rural America. Efforts to develop new clean energy resources and reclaim lands damaged through fossil fuel exploitation under a program of “just transition” will also be important new drivers of investment into globally competitive and thriving rural economies. Key policies for economic diversification and manufacturing jobs include the following programs, strategies and incentives:

  • Establishing Rural Redevelopment Corridors that value existing rural assets. To promote robust rural redevelopment and economic diversification, the Inslee administration will build on regional strengths and the unique attributes of each community to ensure that local economies thrive. This includes systematic assessment of existing infrastructure, historic skills and industries, and legacy natural resources, to harness regional competitive advantages, create jobs, and drive equitably shared economic growth. This will include a “Quadrennial Industrial Review” to be led by the Department of Commerce in mapping strategic industries and investment needs. It will be enhanced through “Equity Impact Mapping” to recognize regional differences in environmental justice and historic investment, by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (restructured as the Council on Environmental Justice). Informed by this analysis and community-led priorities Rural Redevelopment Corridors will be established to target the provision of federal investment, enhanced tax incentives, technical assistance, and prioritized spending on infrastructure in order to build rural economies. Priority attention will be given to ensuring a just transition for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by fossil fuel extraction to ensure strong participation in a low carbon economy.
  • Increasing federal investment in Regional Authorities. To support a national prioritization of rural economic development, existing regional authorities like the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Delta Regional Authority, and Denali Commission will be charged with elevating and coordinating federal investment and technical assistance, to support state initiatives and local priorities. Furthermore, the Inslee Administration will end the drought of funding for the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission, Northern Plains Regional Commission, and Southwest Border Regional Commission so that the same benefits can reach these areas of the country. These regional authorities will leverage a combination of federal funding and financing, including the $90 billion Clean Energy Development Administration, to maximize the scale of investment in sustainable regional economic development in rural communities, addressing unmet infrastructure needs and targeting persistent areas of rural poverty. These efforts will fund critical infrastructure resilience, workforce development, energy transition and climate preparedness, investment in environmental remediation, re-industrialization, and the expansion of local supply chains. Building strong regional institutions to coordinate economic development, backed by federal investment and guided by local priorities, is a proven strategy to promote economic diversification. 
  • Establishing an Advanced Manufacturing Tax Credit and grants-in-lieu of program. In his Evergreen Economy plan for good jobs and advanced infrastructure, Governor Inslee proposed to provide a powerful uncapped incentive for new investment in expanding domestic manufacturing capacity that is directly tied to decarbonizing the economy and rapidly expanding clean energy industries, to include advanced clean energy manufacturing, advanced low-carbon biofuels development, and more. This tax incentive will be transformed into a grant to allow access to qualifying entities that do not have tax liability. And it will specifically target rural manufacturing opportunities linked to a 100% Clean Electricity Standard by 2035, a mandate for federal procurement of 100% clean power by 2024, a 10% solar and distributed energy carve out that can support community based cooperative ownership, annual investments of $15 billion in clean electricity transmission, and initiatives for methane capture and biogas deployment. Together this suite of policies will set strong and predictable incentives for new investment in infrastructure, local project development, and advanced manufacturing in rural communities. 
  • Increasing federal support for rural small businesses. In order to promote strong and just local economies, Governor Inslee has outlined measures to direct the SBA Certified Development Company (CDC) 504 program to provide direct investment into projects that facilitate wealth formation and project ownership at the community level through green and climate smart infrastructure. In addition, substantially increased funding for the USDA Rural Development program as well as the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and Economic Development Agency (EDA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce, will expand support for projects that promote small businesses in rural economies and historically under-invested communities. 
  • Funding Just Transition with a Re-Power Fund for re-industrialization. To ensure that every community in America participates in the benefits and economic expansion that can come from clean energy conversion, the Inslee administration will create two distinct funds, a Re-Power Fund and a Restore Fund, each paid for by polluting industries and backed by federal guarantees to facilitate community level economic transformation. The Re-Power Fund will invest in communities impacted by changes in fossil fuel industries, largely in rural areas and including Rural Redevelopment Corridors. These investments will support bottom-up, locally driven economic and workforce development, subsidize and incentivize economic diversification — including advanced manufacturing and clean-energy business growth, infrastructure, and supplements to any foregone local tax revenue. The Re-Power Fund will prioritize efforts that benefit from existing utility, transportation and shipping infrastructure that is often abundant and of high quality in these communities and that draw on the existing skills of workers and local supply chains to support new markets and re-industrialization for globally competitive industries backed by strong worker protections. 
  • Funding environmental reclamation with a Restoration Fund. As president, Jay Inslee will create new skilled union jobs in environmental reconstruction, by funding restoration of rural communities damaged through the ravages of past energy exploitation. Polluting fossil fuel companies will be held accountable to pay for the environmental, health and community damage caused by coal, oil and gas extraction by supporting a comprehensive reclamation program through the Restoration Fund. This program will hire local workers for reclamation and restoration projects in rural communities where mining, drilling and fracking have damaged natural resources, harmed water tables, and polluted fields, riverbeds, and valleys. The Restoration Fund will supplement, and not replace, existing resources like the Abandoned Mine Fund. These reclamation and restoration jobs will pay prevailing wages and allow workers the right to organize, and they will prioritize community hiring for transitioning workers. 
  • Economic diversification and access to education. Governor Inslee believes that investments in K-12, career tech, and higher education are essential to defeating climate change and building a strong rural economy. Investments in K-12 education will include full funding of Title I and IDEA, investments in science and career tech, expanding bilingual educator training, and more to make sure that every student, no matter where they live, has the support they need to succeed. An Inslee administration will also prioritize broadening access to higher education working in collaboration with Land Grant Colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Native American Serving Institutions, and the national network of Community Colleges to reach rural communities effectively to promote skills training and diversified economic development, rural business formation, and lifelong learning. Finally, Governor Inslee has called for a tripling of apprenticeships across the country to make sure there are good, entry level jobs for new workers.

Managing water resources in a changing climate

A clean, safe and reliable water supply is a vital lifeline for all American communities. Amidst the stressors and threats of damage to water supplies from accelerating climate change, every aspect of America’s water infrastructure is in need of greater federal investment – from municipal drinking- and stormwater systems, to drought-resilient water supplies for agriculture, to floodplain protections against climate-driven flood disasters. Water infrastructure all around us is failing or inadequate. From lead-poisoned drinking water in Flint, Michigan, to broken levees and widespread flooding in Davenport, Iowa, to frequent drought in California’s Central Valley. To address this triple crisis, Governor Inslee’s plan invests in infrastructure that meets 21st century climate-safe standards. Much like he has done in Washington state – in addressing drought-prone water supplies in the Yakima basin, to flood protections in the Chehalis basin, and fish habitat restoration throughout – Governor Inslee’s Growing Rural Prosperity plan calls for increased federal investment in water resources infrastructure in America’s rural communities. These efforts are a part of the Clean Water for All initiative Governor Inslee first outlined in his Evergreen Economy plan, to confront the three water infrastructure crisis facing urban and rural American communities today: drought-resilient water supply, flood protections and also woefully outdated and polluting drinking water, waste-, and stormwater infrastructure. Part of these initiatives include: 

  • Increasing federal funding for water resources management in chronically under-resourced programs at the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture – in particular the BOR and the NRCS – that help secure drought-resistant water supplies in river basins throughout the West. This includes support for locally-driven partnerships and strategies, like the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan that Inslee supported in the first bill he put before the Washington state Legislature in 2013.
  • Building flood-resilient rural communities. Governor Inslee’s plan invests in Army Corps of Engineers and EPA water infrastructure programs. It also calls for incorporating and communicating increasing flood risks through all relevant actions. This includes up-front investments in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) pre-disaster hazard mitigation and the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s (HUD) community development block grants; using post-disaster investment to reduce future risk, including reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP); a federal flood risk management standard; and financial resources to relocation grants and other mitigation measures. In Washington state Inslee has supported the Chehalis Basin Strategy effort to “to make the basin a safer place for families and communities impacted by flooding, and to improve and restore aquatic species habitat now and for future generations.” And, his Evergreen Economy plan calls for investment in flood protection in the Mississippi basin, including $7.8 billion for inland waterway infrastructure improvements requested by 88 Midwestern communities as a part of their “Bold Plan to Revive and Reinforce the Infrastructure of the Mississippi River Corridor.” 
  • Launching a federal Floodplains by Design initiative, to orient federal infrastructure investment, siting and permitting decisions and related programs around natural floodplains, especially using climate change considerations. This national plan is inspired by Washington state’s Floodplains by Design initiative, which has aimed to modernize floodplain management for people, farms and fish, amidst the stressors of climate change, environmental degradation, and a growing regional population.

Ensuring supportive health and housing services in rural communities
America’s rural communities – which, collectively, are called home by an estimated sixty million people – deserve access to affordable healthcare, housing, and public services, and the provision of these services is essential to meeting the twin goals of universal healthcare and broadly-available affordable housing in America. Yet the unique needs of rural communities in these areas have gone persistently unmet, and the consequences are in plain view. Across America, the closure of rural hospitals is accelerating, even as health and wellness challenges unique to these regions grow in scale. Estimates show that fully one quarter of the population in America’s rural areas will be 65+, and rural housing stock is in dire need of refurbishment. Meanwhile, the availability of high-quality elder care dwindles just as it begins to be needed most. As Governor Inslee’s Growing Rural Prosperity plan reinvests in the economic and environmental potential of America’s rural and agriculture sectors, it is also vital that federal policies tackle these unique needs head-on and cease the disinvestment that threatens to undermine the basic social contract with fully one-fifth of America’s population. Governor Inslee’s plan for secure social services in rural communities builds upon his Putting Families First plan, and includes:

  • Extending universal, affordable health coverage by expanding Medicare so that everybody can buy-in, and so that no family’s healthcare costs, including deductibles, co-payments, and premiums, exceed their means. This includes providing subsidies similar to those available for those in the health care exchange that make care affordable for middle-and-low-income working families. This approach also includes expanding the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) eligibility for Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion from 138% to 200%, limiting out-of-pocket costs on the Exchanges, and increasing subsidies for Exchange enrollees earning between 200% and 600% of FPL to make care affordable. Additional steps include: focusing on increasing workforce capacity in essential fields like mental, primary and community-based care; establishment of a publicly-funded long-term care benefit, modeled on Gov. Inslee’s first-in-the-nation program in Washington state; enhanced federal financial support for rural hospitals; and dramatic improvements in the integration of behavioral and physical care.
  • Reinvesting in rural communities, home ownership, and rental housing. There is an absolute shortfall of 7 million affordable rental homes in the market today with only 4 homes available for every 10 families in need of safe and affordable housing. Market forces alone will never provide enough inventory to meet this need, especially at prices that are affordable to the very low income; government policy and direct public investment are required. Governor Inslee’s plan calls for confronting America’s housing crisis by expanding the Housing Trust Fund and supporting structural solutions for home ownership, affordable rental housing, and investment without displacement, including: Expanding funding and financing through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Housing and Rural Business Service to fund energy-efficiency upgrades and on-site solar energy investments that lower utility bills and expand economic opportunity, including access to affordable housing; increasing investment in the National Housing Trust Fund, USDA housing programs, and the creation of a National Housing Stabilization Fund; and expanded support for housing for vulnerable populations, especially through HUD Section 8 and as a supportive service under Medicaid.

IV. Improving Forest Health and Protecting America’s Public Lands

As recognized by the IPCC in its August 2019 Special Report on Climate Change & Land, land-based greenhouse gas emissions account for nearly a quarter of total global emissions. Confronting this source of climate change-driving emissions requires concerted domestic and international action. But in forests, wetlands and wildlands, as on farms and ranches, there’s also an incredible opportunity for climate restoration, in drawing greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and achieving greater environmental health, social justice for Indigenous populations, and for economic growth in America’s rural communities. 

Forest health is especially critical: Over the past 100-plus years, led by Smokey the Bear, the U.S. has suppressed nearly all forest fires in Western forests, including in the millions of acres of fire-dependent forests. This has made these forests less healthy and more susceptible to catastrophic fires and disease. Add to that a lack of investment in forest health and the U.S. Forest Service, and hotter temperatures and pest infestations driven by climate change, and there now exist conditions for massive, catastrophic wildfires — as has been realized in Western states in recent years. Those fires themselves have become major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, emissions from California wildfires almost equaled those from the state’s electricity sector. 

Protections for America’s lands must include an agenda of inclusion and respect for America’s Indigenous peoples. Toward that end, this plan builds upon those that Gov. Inslee has offered in his Freedom from Fossil Fuels and Community Climate Justice plans, to prioritize protection of Tribal lands and fulfilling Tribal treaty rights. 

Furthermore, protecting America’s public lands is not only an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by restricting fossil fuel extraction and promoting carbon storage in forests and fields, but it also offers greater ecosystem and biodiversity protection and will support outdoor recreation in rural economies. As Governor Inslee noted in his Evergreen Economy plan, the outdoor recreation economy provides an enormous boon for rural communities: in 2017 the industry generated $887 billion in consumer spending, $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue, and supported 7.6 million American jobs nationwide. 

Preserving forest health to prevent wildfires, confront climate change & support rural economies

Forests are currently the most powerful tool for pulling carbon emissions out of the atmosphere, around the globe. As Governor Inslee noted in his Global Climate Mobilization plan, slowing the loss and speeding the recovery of the world’s forests could provide 20-30% of the greenhouse gas reduction benefit that the world needs by 2030 — and capturing this opportunity could also provide enormous benefit to community safety by preventing wildfires, growing rural economies and job creation, and in restoring biodiversity and holistic ecosystem health. 

Action to protect forests, and to undertake afforestation and reforestation, must begin at home, and the Inslee Administration will undertake forest health and expansion initiatives to capture their full potential as a climate solutions. But the loss of the world’s forests — and in particular its tropical forests which serve as the world’s largest land-based carbon sinks — is primarily being driven overseas, in nations like Brazil and Indonesia. This requires the U.S. to use its trade and diplomatic relationships with deforestation-heavy states, as well as petro-states, to turn the tide. Gov. Inslee’s Global Climate Mobilization plan proposes a number of strategies through which that will be done. 

At home, the Inslee Administration will take on forest health improvements by:

  • Rewarding carbon removal in forests. Just as the Growing Rural Prosperity plan proposes rewarding farmers for carbon removal and environmental services, it also calls for recognizing and rewarding the sequestration of carbon into America’s forests. The Inslee Administration will pursue the full potential of forest expansion for deep decarbonization, estimated at 40-50 million acres over the next 20-35 years, by investing in and incentivizing improved forest management in private working forests, reforestation of marginal farmlands, and long-term protection through voluntary conservation easements and other incentives that will protect forests from development and fragmentation.
  • Investing in the U.S. Forest Service to prevent wildfires and protect forest health. Gov. Inslee’s plan calls for massive expansions in investment in operations and maintenance budgets at the U.S. Forest Service, which are crucial for ensuring healthy forests, particularly in the West. And along with this, pursuing federal-state-local collaboratives to capture the full carbon storage potential for reforestation and to address the million acres of forest not yet under best management practices. In Washington state, for example, federal, state, tribal, local, and private landowners are working together to improve forest health on over 1.25 million acres over the next 20 years. In addition, the Climate Conservation Corps (or “Climate Corps”) proposed by Gov. Inslee, and based upon his past success establishing the Clean Energy Service Corps a decade ago as part of the Serve America Act of 2009, will provide a new pathway through which to employ Americans in this critical work. 
  • Using sustainable forest biomass from forestry thinnings to make renewable materials. The Inslee administration will pursue policies that support the use of forest waste as feedstocks for plastics and other materials – to create a revenue-generating product. Treating and thinning forests in a sustainable manner can save the forests from the ravages of climate change and create jobs in rural communities throughout the Western U.S. Unfortunately, treating those forests is expensive in part because very little of the trimmings currently have economic value. Done right, sustainably sourced forestry waste can put into motion a virtuous cycle of sustainable job creation, forestry protection, carbon removal, and catastrophic wildfire protection and its associated climate disasters. Opportunities extend also to new technologies like cross laminated timber, which can be used in commercial buildings and can increase demand for longer-lived forests which will encourage reforestation and sustainable management on public, private, state and tribal lands.

Empowering Tribal nations on their own land

Governor Inslee is committed to respecting Tribal sovereignty and treaty rights, and the rights of America’s Indigenous peoples to protect and decide the future of their historic lands, water, and cultural resources. As he laid out in his Freedom from Fossil Fuels and Community Climate Justice plans, an Inslee Administration will be dedicated to meeting Tribal treaty obligations, returning appropriate lands to Tribal trust status, empowering Tribes to reject dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure that would destroy their land and worsen global climate change. The Inslee Administration will feature federal policy- and decision-making processes that respect and engage the rights and sovereignty of Tribal nations, and will prioritize investment in Tribal communities.

  • Establishing a federal commission to study the U.S. Government’s treaty obligations to Tribal nations, as first proposed by Inslee in his Community Climate Justice plan, and to make recommendations on policies and government structures to meet those obligations. Governor Inslee will also re-establish the annual White House Tribal Nations conference first convened under President Barack Obama.
  • Respecting Tribal sovereignty and prioritizing investment in Tribal communities. This includes ensuring Tribal nations have parity in and prioritized investment from resources and programs implemented through a national climate mobilization as outlined in the Evergreen Economy Plan and throughout Governor Inslee’s Climate Mission Agenda.
  • Returning lands to Tribal trust. Wherever possible, to return treaty, former reservation and public lands to tribal trust status, to empower Tribes to take a leading role in environmental stewardship as well as land and oceans management, and to build on successful co-management models of public lands and parks in the United States, such as Badlands and Glacier National Park.
  • Empowering Tribal nations to reject fossil fuel projects. Taking action to ensure that tribes, through meaningful consultation and free, prior and informed consent, to reject oil pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure proposals, and to engage with them in joint control and protection of their lands, waters, territories and resources. 
  • Tribal consultation. Directing the new White House Council on Environmental Justice (CEJ) to lead in all federal agencies in engaging with Tribal nations with thorough, inclusive, transparent and meaningful consultation.

Investing to protect public lands

Public lands are a treasure to be enjoyed by all current and future American generations, and they are also a vital contributor to strong rural economies through recreation and tourism. But under the Trump administration, America’s public lands have been under attack. President Trump is moving aggressively to remove protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and open it for oil drilling despite overwhelming public opposition. Trump recklessly removed protections for over 2 million acres of public land around Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. The lands Americans own together as a country are some of this nation's greatest assets, and when protected and invested in, they can boost rural economies, and they can also provide the opportunity to create renewable energy that can help defeat climate change. That is why Governor Inslee is committed to restoring public lands, including their carbon storage potential, and investing in them as the economic opportunity and environmental treasure that they are. As president, he will:  

  • Reverse the Trump Administration rollbacks to public land protections on day one – including banning new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and restoring protections to critical areas, from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Everglades.
  • Investing in the federal backlog of public lands projects, which has reached nearly $12 billion. These projects can help not only preserve public spaces and critical habitats, but provide healthier lands and forests that capture and hold more carbon pollution. Strong stewardship of these lands put Americans to work – including through Governor Inslee’s proposed Climate Conversation Corps, based on a successful federal program he authored while in Congress. 
  • Fully and permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). As part of Governor Inslee’s funding commitment to public lands, he will restore funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which protects vulnerable public lands and helps acquire new public lands. Government investment in public lands – in rural and urban communities alike – is necessary to preserve open places for recreation and connect land and water ecosystems that are often interrupted by private ownership. 
  • Expanding renewable energy and transmission development on public lands, through a directive and dedicated assistance for Power Marketing Agencies through the DOE to help their regions plan and execute a transition to 100% clean power with publicly-financed and owned clean energy assets. Governor Inslee will also direct the Department of Interior (DOI) and USDA land management agencies to prioritize permitting for low-impact renewable energy and transmission development on public lands.
  • Giving the public access to their public lands with free entrance to national parks and other public lands, and dedicated investment in schools to ensure America’s students have the opportunity to travel to, visit and enjoy national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, wilderness and forests and other protected places. Governor Inslee will make public lands access free for all, restore and increase budgets to improve access and amenities and use economic development dollars to restore communities to help them serve the tourism industry connected to well-maintained and well-funded public places. 
  • Engaging state, local and tribal stakeholders in public lands management. As a Governor, Jay understands that the best public land policy is a collaboration between local agencies, federal agencies, and adjacent private landowners. Together, co-management plans that complement state, local and tribal plans allow communities to best protect and utilize public lands.