Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg released on Monday his cap-and-trade investment proposal, which projects $5 billion in annual investment starting in 2015. Steinberg’s proposal includes “permanent” investments in transit, housing and high speed rail, but makes no mention of investments in agricultural solutions to climate change. The glaring omission of agriculture in the Senate leader’s investment proposal is in stark contrast to Governor Brown’s cap-and-trade expenditure plan, which includes investments in farmland conservation, on-farm management strategies, bioenergy and ag-water use efficiency.
Steinberg’s proposal is heavily focused on implementation of sustainable communities strategies with a focus on affordable housing and transit-oriented development. The implementation of smart growth, in-fill development strategies is also a significant focus of the Governor’s proposal. But unlike Steinberg’s proposal, the Governor’s proposal includes investments in conserving agricultural lands at risk of development, a key smart growth strategy.
Leaving agriculture out of California’s climate change investment proposal would be a missed opportunity. California agriculture is uniquely positioned to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration. Climate-friendly farming practices can preserve and enhance carbon stores in soils and woody biomass, generate renewable energy and reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Farmland conservation is also an essential climate mitigation strategy. Farms and ranches provide significant carbon sinks and have much lower GHG emissions compared with urban areas. For more background on the multiple benefits of investing in agriculture, please see CalCAN’s input on the state’s Scoping Plan.
The Pro Tem acknowledged that his proposal is a work in progress and we are optimistic that more can be done to incorporate sustainable agricultural strategies into the final plan. In May, the Governor will release his revised budget which will present another opportunity to weigh in on the future of state investments in climate change solutions. Meanwhile, we will post regular updates on cap-and-trade investments and ask for your help in educating policymakers on the important role sustainable agriculture can play in the state’s climate change efforts.