New CDFA Report Identifies Adaptation Strategies for California Agriculture

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The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently released a new report outlining recommendations for agriculture’s ongoing adaptation to climate change.  The report was based in large part on the input of a Climate Change Consortium comprised of stakeholders from the California agriculture community, including CalCAN.

In a related and broader effort, the California Natural Resources Agency is preparing to release an update to their 2009 Climate Adaptation Strategy, which covers several sectors including agriculture. They are conducting a series of public workshops to gain public input on the updates.

The CDFA report, titled “The Climate Change Consortium for Specialty Crops: Impacts and Strategies for Resilience,” identifies known challenges – such as higher overall temperatures, reduced water supply and quality, and unpredictable changes to pest and pollination dynamics – that farmers of specialty crops will increasingly confront due to climate change. The paper acknowledges that growers have already found ways to mitigate some of these impacts, which may often be experienced as increases in weather variability and extremes.  It also concludes that agricultural adaptation and preparedness for climate events will ultimately depend on farmers having access to “agricultural support services, scientific answers to fundamental climate change impact questions, investment in planning and preparedness, and technological innovations” (pg. 4).  The Consortium identified a role for state agencies, including the CDFA, to support the agriculture sector in shoring up its climate adaptation capacity.

Recognizing the essential role of public agencies in strategic adaptation, the Consortium has suggested specific ways that the CDFA and other state, federal and research groups should contribute to adaptive efforts. All action items are located within the categories of Outreach and Education, Planning and Resource Optimization, Research Needs, and Technology and Innovation, and each one notes a corresponding priority level, expected timeframe and potential costs to the CDFA (starting on pg. 50). High-priority measures include conducting environmental and economic assessments of adaptive actions (like crop relocation and changes to water management practices), revising specific regulations acting as barriers to adaptation, providing technical assistance to growers, and including agricultural interests in the Integrated Regional Water Management process.

As part of a growing recognition for action on adaptation, the Consortium identifies implementable recommendations and suggests that the state go beyond simply considering how agriculture might adapt to a changing climate. Several recommendations are low or medium cost (i.e., less than $1,000 and $10,000 respectively), so cost is not a barrier to CDFA action. Other measures, such as research and monitoring, are more expensive and in the ongoing era of fiscal austerity will require new sources of funding. This report provides more evidence of the need for state investments in agriculture in the face of climate change and bolsters the CalCAN case for allocating a portion of cap-and-trade funds for research, technical assistance and financial incentives for growers to mitigate climate change and help with adaptation strategies.

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