CalCAN, California Climate & Agriculture Network News

Ag for climate change action, reducing methane in dairies, carbon sequestration and more…….

CalCAN, California Climate & Agriculture Network News

Governor Proposes
Additional Funds for Healthy Soils,
Cuts Other Climate Smart Ag Programs

In his recent budget revision, Governor Newsom has made clear his  passion for healthy soils with a proposal for $28 million for the program, a $10 million increase from his January budget proposal. This central climate smart agriculture program offers multiple benefits to farmers and our environment, but we cannot afford to take a siloed approach to agricultural solutions to climate change.

The Governor failed to propose any funding for the  State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), the state’s on-farm water use efficiency program. Also missing from the revised budget proposal was a modest $2 million investment in climate change  adaptation tools for farmers that CalCAN is seeking.

The Governor did propose an additional $10 million for dairy methane programs in his May revise budget, which could include the  Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP). However, the outcome is an overall cut to funding for dairy methane programming because of earlier proposed cuts–down from $99 million in the current fiscal year (FY) to a proposed $35 million for FY ‘19-‘20.

We must embrace holistic strategies that include  SWEEP 2.0 that achieves water savings and groundwater sustainability. We need climate risks tools for farmers that support  agriculture’s viabilityand the state’s long-term food security. And we need a more comprehensive healthy soils approach that includes programs like  AMMP that turn dairy manure into compost and CalRecycle’s waste diversion program that builds the compost facilities we need.

Read the full blog post for all the details.

Record High Numbers of Dairy Producers
Seek Funds for Methane Reduction

The state reports record high numbers of California dairy and livestock producers seeking funds to switch to alternative manure management, upgrade their operations and reduce their production of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) received applications from 91 dairies and livestock operations to the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP), seeking $54.6 million in funding, far exceeding the maximum of $33 million in available funds. The program funds dairy and livestock operations to switch from wet manure handling and storage to dry manure management.

“For most dairies, alternative manure management is the way to go to address a host of environmental issues and upgrade their operations. Turning manure into compost is an important climate and healthy soils strategy,” said Jeanne Merrill, Policy Director with the California Climate and Agriculture Network.

“Because milk prices paid to dairy producers have been depressed for more than four years, dairy producers often can’t afford to make changes to their practices. This is the only program of its kind in the country, and our members are eager to be a part of California’s climate solutions.” said Lynne McBride, Executive Director of the California Farmers Union.

“We saw a big increase in interest from dairy farmers we work with in the North Coast. Turning manure into compost is a win-win for farmers and the environment,”  said Frances Tjarnstrom, Dairy Project Coordinator with the Humboldt County Resource Conservation District.

Read the full press release.

Ward Burroughs checking the compost windrows at Burroughs Family Farms in Denair, CA.

LA Times on Agriculture’s Climate Solutions

Read the LA Times piece running today entitled,  “California is making a weak effort to turn agriculture into a climate change fix.” Featuring CalCAN and our partners at the Carbon Cycle Institute later in the article, it begins:

Agriculture generates 9% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, which makes it the state’s fourth-largest emitter, after transportation, industry and buildings. But agriculture — often seen as an enemy of the environment — is the only one of these sectors with the potential to also remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Healthy soil teems with life — more than a billion microorganisms per teaspoon — along with, crucially, carbon. Unfortunately, tilled soil releases a lot of that carbon, which combines with oxygen to add CO2 to the atmosphere. What’s called regenerative or carbon-focused farming — composting, minimizing tillage, using cover crops and crop rotation, planting hedgerows and windbreaks to foster biodiversity and cut down on blowing soil, and retaining crop residue on farmland — can slow the carbon loss and even pull it, through photosynthesis, from the atmosphere into vegetation and soil. That “draw down” capacity is a crucial tool in the struggle to limit climate change, and, for California, in its attempt to meet its goal of  carbon neutrality by 2045.

Science shows that carbon-focused farming can also improve crop yields and livestock health⁠, increase crop resilience to drought, reduce erosion and flooding, improve soil water-holding capacity and allow farmers to cut back on the use of synthetic fertilizers. Over time, these practices can lower costs for farmers, and by building resilience in crops, they may also reduce federal crop insurance payouts, saving taxpayers money.

Read the full article in the LA Times.