Ag Solutions for Climate Protection

Posted on Monday, July 22nd, 2013 by Renata Brillinger

One of the elements of AB 32, California’s 2006 landmark climate change legislation, was to require the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to produce a “Scoping Plan” that outlines ways to achieve the greenhouse gas reduction goal of AB 32 — to reduce GHGs to 1990 levels by 2020. CARB is the agency charged with implementing AB 32, and they are required to update the Scoping Plan every five years.


A new Scoping Plan is due in 2013, and CARB plans to release a draft in the fall and invite public input. The draft will include recommendations for meeting the 2020 goal and also high level ideas about reaching a more ambitious GHG reduction goal by 2050. It will include six topics areas for the post-2020 element: 1) transportation, fuels, and infrastructure; 2) energy generation, transmission, and efficiency; 3) waste; 4) water; 5) agriculture; and 6) natural resources.

Concurrently, discussion at CARB, in the legislature and among stakeholder groups such as CalCAN has begun on how to invest funds raised by the cap-and-trade program. Though Governor Brown recently prevailed in his opinion (in the face of significant opposition) that the funds should be loaned to the General Fund for the 2013/14 budget cycle, the discussion will continue starting in January 2014 for the next fiscal year. The Scoping Plan will be finalized by then and will have influence on how the cap-and-trade investment fund is allocated.

Doniga moving cattle
Intensive grazing methods, such as those used at Markegard Family Grass-Fed, may build soil organic matter and sequester carbon

CalCAN submitted to CARB a set of recommendations for contributions that agriculture can make to help achieve California’s GHG reduction target (available here). In summary, we recommend the following for inclusion in the Scoping Plan:

  • Implement strategies to accelerate the implementation of water and energy use efficiency measures. Increasing energy and water use efficiency are win-win strategies that result in both GHG reductions and cost savings for the farmer or rancher.
  • Support development of innovative renewable energy in agriculture. Only a fraction of California’s farms, ranches and food processors produce renewable energy that can help run their operations, provide excess renewable energy to the grid and reduce overall GHG emissions.
  • Invest in technical assistance, educational outreach and incentives for on-farm conservation strategies that can reduce GHG emissions, sequester atmospheric carbon in soils and woody biomass and provide economic, environmental and health co-benefits. Agriculture and forestry offer the only currently available terrestrial “sinks” of carbon dioxide, the most predominant greenhouse gas. Natural processes in these sectors can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in soils and woody biomass. Additionally, agricultural practices, such as soil and manure management practices can reduce nitrous oxide and methane emissions – two potent greenhouse gases.
  • Include farmland protection strategies such as grants for conservation easements, funding of the Williamson Act, smart growth planning grants and statewide farmland mitigation requirements. Farmland offers unique carbon sinks and its protection avoids increases in transportation and energy-related emissions associated with development.
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