The State Board of Food and Agriculture recently released its report “California Agricultural Vision: Strategies for Sustainability.” The State Food and Agriculture Board is made up of members from the agriculture, environmental, university and consumer communities, appointed by the Governor to advise the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).
More than two years in the making, the Ag Vision report is the product of many public input sessions, a stakeholder committee process, and guidance from an advisory committee, staffed by the American Farmland Trust. The intent of the process was to provide input to the State Board on actions to take to deal with the challenges facing agriculture, from conflicting regulations and constrained water supplies to increasing urbanization and climate change impacts.
The Ag Vision report is intended to lay out a plan for California agriculture to meet a number of challenges to the industry in the years and decades to come. The report includes a call for helping agriculture move away from fossil fuels, produce renewable energy and adapt to climate change.
Given the broad participation of agricultural industry, sustainable agriculture, environmental and consumer groups within the Ag Vision process, it is significant that the group reached agreement on the importance of agriculture moving away from fossil fuels and adapting to climate change.
For example, one excerpt on renewable energy states:
As the fossil fuel era wanes and the price of fossil‐derived inputs increases, agriculture has a large economic stake in substituting alternative, renewable sources of energy and other inputs, some of which can be produced on the farm itself. The substitution of alternatives to fossil‐derived agricultural production inputs should also have significant benefits to the public in terms of regional air quality and mitigation of global climate change.
We commend the Ag Vision leaders for moving the group together on these issues. However, we had hoped for stronger recommendations from the report.
For most of the issues outlined, including climate change and supporting farm-based renewable energy, the report calls for more study and survey. Given the urgent nature of the climate crisis, the significant impacts already predicted for agriculture, and the promise illustrated by some of the available science, it falls short in terms of leadership needed by the State Board and CDFA.
The Ag Vision process will continue with new stakeholder committees to work further on these issues. We hope to see concrete steps being taken under the new Governor’s administration to support our farms and ranches in coping with a changing climate, and CalCAN produced several recommendations to that end.
Ag Vision: Strategies for Sustainability (excerpt):
Few sectors of the California economy will be as affected by a changing global climate as agriculture. Among the potential climate‐related phenomena that could threaten agricultural production are further reductions in water supplies, increases in plant heat stress, decreases in nighttime cooling (needed to break dormancy in tree crops) and shifts in pollinator life cycles.
In California, agricultural and forest production release each of the three main greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, accounting for about six percent of total state greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Agriculture can help avoid disruptive impacts of climate change by reducing its GHG emissions and by sequestering carbon. At the same time, it must also begin to develop strategies to enable producers to adapt to changing conditions that are most likely to occur under probable climate change scenarios.
Assure that all sectors of California agriculture can adapt to the most likely climate‐related changes in seasonal weather, water supply, pests and diseases, and other factors affecting agricultural production
Immediate Action Endorsed by the State Board of Food & Agriculture
The State Board should ask the UC‐ANR to survey existing studies, on‐going research, projects and other practical steps being taken to assess the potential impact of climate change on California agriculture; to determine the most significant likely impacts and propose strategies to help agriculture adapt to and benefit from these changes.