More than 400 small farm operators in California came together in southern California recently for the 25th annual California Small Farm Conference. The event provided attendees with opportunities to learn the ins and outs of developing successful and sustainable farm businesses.
Bringing the next generation of growers into farming was an area of concern, as were means of protecting farms against invasive pests. Farmers also got a chance to learn more about evolving energy and carbon markets as the state of California implements its cap-and-trade program.
As a presenter in the “Alternative Energy & Carbon Markets: Promises and Pitfalls” workshop, I briefed farmers on the challenges climate change will bring including the potential for increased flooding in winter and deeper droughts in summer. Erratic and extreme weather events already seem on the way to becoming the norm. Yield reductions, shifting crop patterns and increased and changing pest and disease pressures are also likely to occur. All of these changes leave California’s farmers economically vulnerable.
I also talked about steps farmers can take to adapt to the changing climate. Some ideas include working to increase soil fertility and water-holding capacity, increasing biodiversity, and on-farm water storage, as well as finding ways to minimize the use of fossil-fuel based inputs including motor fuels and synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.
On the policy front, I talked about the idea that the entire state needs to be looking for ways to invest in California’s agricultural future. One of the ways to do that is by directing some of the revenue generated by the new cap-and-trade program toward agricultural research, technical assistance and in support of on-farm practices that produce climate benefits.
Over the next few months, the state legislature will weigh in on areas where cap-and-trade revenue (estimated at between $500 million and $1 billion in 2012) should be invested. CalCAN continues to advocate that sustainable agricultural solutions be a part of the cap-and-trade investment plan.
Among folks at the Small Farm Conference, interest in ways to help farmers meet the challenges of climate change was strong. You can help CalCAN continue building statewide backing for this deeper investment in sustainable agriculture by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.