Governor Brown kicked off his historical fourth term in office with an inaugural address that included an ambitious climate protection agenda. We were pleased to hear him call for agricultural climate solutions in the speech, saying, “We must manage farm and rangelands, forests and wetlands so they can store carbon.”
Four days later, he released his budget draft for fiscal year 2015-16, including allocations for a total of $1 billion in cap-and-trade revenue. The draft budget includes: (1) $15 million for agricultural energy efficiency that this year was spent on anaerobic digesters and biofuels, and (2) funding for farmland conservation (an unspecified portion of a $200 million budget for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program; this year $5 million was for farmland conservation).
The budget does not include on-going funding for the popular State Water and Energy Efficiency Program, which in 2014-15 provided $10 million in financial assistance for efficient irrigation systems and supporting practices.
Also included in the budget—albeit with no specific funding—was a call for Healthy Soils, echoing the messages of CalCAN, the Marin Carbon Project, Resource Conservation Districts and many other proponents of sustainable agriculture:
Healthy Soils — As the leading agricultural state in the nation, it is important for California’s soils to be sustainable and resilient to climate change. Increased carbon in soils is responsible for numerous benefits including increased water holding capacity, increased crop yields and decreased sediment erosion. In the upcoming year, the Administration will work on several new initiatives to increase carbon in soil and establish long term goals for carbon levels in all California’s agricultural soils.
This initiative will be coordinated by CDFA, involving multiple agencies, and will include stakeholder input. Stay tuned for more details.
While it was encouraging to hear Governor Brown mention farms and ranches in his address, we think his words must be followed by more actions — and more funding. For example:
- Protecting farmland has significant emission reduction benefits. One acre of urban land emits 70 times more greenhouse gases than an acre of irrigated farmland. With budget cuts to state farmland protection programs over the past several years, there are now very few resources available to achieve these benefits. Funding for AHSC increased by $70 million in the 2015-16 draft budget. We are calling for 10 percent, or $20 million, to be appropriated for farmland conservation.
- Water bond funding for FY 2015-16 can continue efforts to support farmers in improved on-farm water use efficiencies and conservation.
- There is great potential to increase the renewable energy produced on farms from agricultural waste products. Just as with advancements in the solar energy field, state incentives can catalyze innovations we need to reach the bold clean energy targets laid out by the Governor. Investments in agricultural energy efficiency and renewables should be increased and diversified to include bioenergy from a variety of feedstock sources and technologies.
California cannot meet its ambitious greenhouse gas goals without investing in climate change solutions from our farms and ranches. This budget is a modest start, but more is needed to reach the state’s nearly 78,000 farmers and unleash the potential of agriculture’s climate solutions.