SACRAMENTO – Assembly Bill 409, the CalCAN-sponsored Agriculture Climate Adaptation Tools bill, received back-to-back unanimous, bipartisan votes over the past week in the Senate Natural Resources and Agriculture committees. The bill, authored by Assemblymember Monique Limón, will establish a competitive grant program to fund the collaborative development of farmer-centered climate adaptation decision-support tools, the piloting of those tools in three regions of the state, and trainings on climate risk management. The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Dr. Leslie Roche, an Assistant Cooperative Extension Specialist in Rangeland Science and Management in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, provided expert testimony in one of the hearings. Dr. Roche works with ranchers across California and has done insightful research on rancher decision-making and drought resiliency. She started her testimony by describing the impact a changing climate has had on the ranching community:
“Rangeland livestock producers were among the first in the agricultural community impacted by our recent, historic statewide drought. During this unprecedented time, ranchers in the hardest hit regions had to make substantial herd reductions—with some completely liquidating. Extreme events, like extended drought, pose significant and cumulative challenges to sustaining California’s ranches and rangelands. And with a more variable climate future, these challenges will continue—particularly for the next generation of ranchers.”
After describing “a clear, immediate need to centralize and highlight the most relevant and timely knowledge and translate this into accessible formats,” Dr. Roche pointed to the California Rangeland Drought Hub as one successful example of a climate adaptation tool. The Drought Hub serves as a center for research, resources, and science-based communication on drought management, including audio stories from ranching families sharing their on-the-ground experience.
Other agricultural adaptation tools have been created and deployed successfully in other regions of the US. For example, Agroclimate is a set of tools that has been created for the Southeast. Agroclimate’s Strawberry Advisory System – a real-time disease risk alert and recommendation system – has been shown to reduce fungicide applications by half and save producers up to $400 per acre.
Dr. Roche concluded her remarks by noting that California’s uniquely diverse agriculture will require multiple partners and tools:
“California ranching – like California agriculture in general — is diverse, complex, and uniquely vulnerable to climate risks. To reduce vulnerability across all types of operations, scientists and the agricultural community must work together to co-develop decision tools that are locally relevant and usable.”
Check out our AB 409 bill fact sheet to read more about the bill and see the full list of nearly 30 supporting organizations.
Have a story of climate impacts and resilience on your farm? We’d like to hear it!
We have been documenting farmers’ and ranchers’ stories of climate impacts and resilience – like those in this Climate Impact Stories one-pager – to help us educate legislators about the need to invest in resources to keep farmers on the land and food on our nation’s table. If you have a story you are willing to share, please send a note to brian[at]calclimateag.org.