Fact check: Post claiming Joe Biden wants to put farms in 'land banks' is missing context

Emily Hopkins, USA TODAY
·3 min read

The claim: Joe Biden wants American farmers to put their farmland into government land banks and to tell farmers what 'sustainable' plants they are allowed to grow

Similar posts shared thousands of times on Facebook suggest that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wants American farmers to put their land into government land banks. The posts also claim the government would dictate which crops farmers would be allowed to grow.

Three such posts, which were shared by individuals but had identical text, read, “Biden wants American farmers to put their farmland into Gvt (sic) 'land banks'. Gvt would then tell farmers what 'sustainable' plants they could grow. Are you ok with this”

Marcus Huey of Phoenix said he is the original author of the post and that it stems from a town hall Biden held in September. He told USA TODAY that he watched the video multiple times before writing the post on Facebook.

"I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow the post made it to the midwest farming community and took off like wildfire," Huey told USA TODAY via Facebook Messenger. He said it is the most widely shared thing he's ever written on Facebook.

Other users who apparently copied Huey's post have not responded to USA TODAY’s requests for comment.

Biden's answer less detailed than his platform

Biden brought up land banks in response to a question posed at a Sept. 17 town hall about reducing regulatory burdens for farmers.

“We should provide for your ability to make a lot more money, as farmers, by dealing with you being able to put land in land banks, and you get paid to do that to provide for more open space and provide for the ability of you to be able to be in a position that we are going to pay you for planting certain crops that in fact absorb carbon from the air,” he said.

It remains unclear what Biden meant when he said "land banks." The Biden campaign did not respond to questions sent by USA TODAY about the phrase or about what his answer was actually referring to. It appears, however, that this was a reference to his platform for rural America.

Audience members watch from their cars as Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, seen on a monitor, speaks during a CNN town hall in Moosic, Pa., Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020.
Audience members watch from their cars as Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, seen on a monitor, speaks during a CNN town hall in Moosic, Pa., Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020.

The campaign has confirmed to Reuters that Biden was referring to his intentions to “dramatically expand and fortify” the Conservation Stewardship Program. It’s one of a few programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that pays farmers to implement conservation practices on their property. Farmers retain full ownership of their property and are given financial assistance from the USDA with the goal of improving natural resources that have been degraded through agriculture.

Programs are voluntary

The program does pay farmers to plant certain crops, such as cover crops, but these programs are voluntary. Thousands of farmers already participate in this and other USDA programs that help them pay for conservation practices on their land. In the 2019 fiscal year, the federal government committed more than $1.4 billion on the program.

Currently, the Conservation Stewardship Program addresses issues such as soil and water quality. Biden’s plan would expand the program to include payments for crops that sequester carbon, according to his campaign website.

Our rating: Missing context

We rate the claim as MISSING CONTEXT, based on our research. The original Facebook post is not incorrect, but it is missing important context about Biden's platform related to agriculture and conservation.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Claim lacks important details about Biden and 'land banks'