Agriculture is a significant driver of climate change, both through the use of fossil fuels and the production of methane from cattle, yet it receives very little public attention when we think about fighting it. So I’m glad to see California start taking the lead on this issue, channeling money to new ways to limit climate change-creating emissions on the state’s farms:
In fact, said Jeanne Merrill, Policy Director of the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN), protecting the nation’s food supply might be the central reason for the dramatic increase. “I think the governor is concerned with food security,” she told Civil Eats. The more farmers can combine their efforts to mitigate the current problems by reducing the worst greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the farm, she added, “the better we are at maintaining a secure food system.”
The suite of proposed agricultural programs include existing strategies such as methane digesters on dairy farms, and new ones, like the Healthy Soils Initiative, which aims to increase soil organic matter and carbon sequestration. They would all receive an unprecedented allotment of funds from the state’s cap and trade program, which allows large GHG-emitting businesses in California to buy and sell allowances beyond the state-wide cap. According to CalCAN, there is currently $1.7 billion in cap-and-trade funds that have yet to be allocated.
So why the remarkable increase? Merrill points to a landmark 2012 study from the University of California at Davis that made a compelling argument for the value of climate-smart farming practices, and showed—among other things—that more GHG emissions were released from urban land than irrigated farmland. She adds that the state’s land trust and conservation communities have also rallied behind sustainable agriculture and helped inform decision makers about the undeniable connections between farming and climate change.
But most supporters of the proposed budget aren’t too concerned about why the change is happening—they’re just glad to see that it is.
Of course there are lots of questions about effectiveness, implementation, whether cap and trade systems can work at all to fight climate change, etc. But this is where the political energy and ability is to try anything at all and experimentation is a very good thing at this stage. Hopefully this will lead more states to try it. Although Oklahoma and Texas will probably see this and up their methane emissions out of spite.