An Assessment of California Agriculture’s Readiness for Climate Change
CalCAN has released a report assessing the adequacy and availability of resources for California agriculture to address climate change. It is entitled “Ready…Or Not? An Assessment of California Agriculture’s Readiness for Climate Change.”
The report examines the status of three types of resources:
1. Research on agricultural adaptation and mitigation. Because sustainable and organic practices show considerable promise for both adaptation and mitigation, we assessed the availability of research that includes six indicators of sustainability.
2. Technical assistance to communicate scientific findings to farmers and ranchers.
3. Direct payments to producers for conservation practices with climate benefits.
“Ready…Or Not?” illustrates that California agriculture is ill-prepared to face the challenges of climate change. Here are some of the findings:
- There are currently only 39 publicly funded studies that examined agricultural adaptation and/or mitigation to climate change.
- Of these, only 10% examined organic systems, which science is finding have significant climate benefits.
- Budget cuts have decimated the state’s Cooperative Extension services. The number of Extension advisors peaked in 1969 at 380, and that number has dropped to only 200 for the whole state. There are only 119 Extension specialists, compared to 900 in Texas, a smaller agricultural producer. Resource Conservation Districts and NRCS staff levels have also been cut despite increased demands for farm bill conservation programs.
- Finally, unlike other agricultural states, California lacks state-funded direct incentive programs for producers to adopt on-farm conservation programs. And in 2009 the USDA’s farm bill conservation program had insufficient funding for 70 percent of the California farmers and ranchers who applied.
Given the importance of California agriculture globally, and given the industry’s vulnerability to climate change impacts, CalCAN believes it is essential that more resources are made available.