Last week, CalCAN was joined in the Capitol by a group of 22 farmers, ranchers, agricultural professionals and advocates in meetings with their representatives to offer first-hand accounts of farming and ranching in California. Our partners came from more than ten counties across the state, including the greater Fresno area, Central Coast, North Coast, Sacramento Valley, and beyond, to share their perspectives about how state policy could support farmers and ranchers in incorporating practices with climate benefits.
Altogether, we met with 18 legislative offices, including 10 meetings with members themselves. We also met with Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross and other representatives from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
“Because farmers and ranchers are such busy people, taking a day off their normal schedules is a big deal. Understanding that, I can confidently say that the day was worthwhile. We forged connections within our group from ag communities across the state, grew our understanding of the policy arena, and further developed long-term relationships with decision-makers in the Capitol.” – Jeff Borum of East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District
The focus of the Legislator Education Day was on the state’s suite of Climate Smart Agriculture programs: the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), Healthy Soils Program, Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP) and Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP). Find the program fact sheets we shared with members here.
The group also highlighted the need for technical assistance in developing and implementing the programs, ensuring a diversity of farmers and ranchers at different scales, operation types, demographics and regions can access the programs and successfully implement them. They shared with members this fact sheet about a CalCAN-sponsored bill that would fund technical assistance and improve participation in the programs and better access for small and medium size farmers. Find more information about the bill, authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D- Thousand Oaks), here.
“CalCAN brought together a great group of people that had received Healthy Soils and SWEEP grants or helped to make these important programs happen. The farmers and ranchers spoke from first-hand experience and conviction, describing the ways that agriculture has a big role to play in combatting climate change.” – Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm in Yolo County
In their meetings, CalCAN partners underscored the need to restore funding for the SWEEP and Healthy Soils Programs. Several of the group are now implementing soil health and water conservation practices on their farms and ranches through program awards.
“The day reaffirmed for me that there is a huge opportunity for agriculture to make a positive impact on climate change. Getting a chance to explain to legislators the importance of the climate initiatives CalCAN supports was a great experience and I look forward to attending again.” – Danny Royer of Bowles Farming Company in Merced County, recipient of both SWEEP and Healthy Soils awards
“I was motivated to attend the CalCAN Legislator Education Day to promote the programs that help me farm more efficiently and sustainably. As the new, smaller generation of farmers replace the older generation, Ag Tech innovation and irrigation efficiency will be key to farming more land with less people. This is why I did a SWEEP project and want to continue to do more.” – David Ogilvie of Wilson Vineyards in Yolo County, recipient of a SWEEP grant
By the end of the day, the group reflected positively on their experiences in the Capitol and left grateful to have been part of a larger, group effort to make change. CalCAN extends our thanks to all the farmers, ranchers and other partners who dedicated time and effort to joining us in the Capitol last week.
If you would like to join a future CalCAN Legislator Education Day, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.