CIRS Blog about Rural California
By Brian Shobe
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is now accepting public comments on its draft Requests for Grant Applications (RGA) for the $6.75 million Healthy Soils Program (HSP), authorized by the Budget Act of 2016, and funded through California’s cap-and-trade program.
The Healthy Soils Program offers grants to farmers who take action to capture greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, in the soil to help combat climate change.
The Healthy Soils Program will be implemented under two separate components: 1) the $3.75 million Incentives Program and 2) the $3 million Demonstration Projects. For the Incentives Program, an estimated $3.75 million in competitive grant funding will be awarded to provide financial assistance for implementation of agricultural management practices that sequester soil carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
You may have been hearing the phrase “climate smart agriculture” more lately. Governor Brown embraced the term in his 2016-17 budget proposal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a climate smart agriculture initiative. And international climate efforts include the UN’s work on support climate smart agricultural practices.
So what is climate smart agriculture? Like the phrase “sustainable agriculture,” it is not universally defined, and it is used to mean many things to many people.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations takes credit for first coining the term in the lead up to the 2010 Hague Conference on Food Security, Agriculture and Climate Change. The FAO defines climate smart agriculture as “a means of identifying which production systems and enabling institutions are best suited to respond to the challenges of climate change for specific locations, to maintain and enhance the capacity of agriculture to support food security in a sustainable way.”
The FAO identifies three pillars to the concept:
- Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes
- Adapting and building resilience to climate change
- Reducing and/or removing greenhouse gases emissions, where possible
California Governor Jerry Brown has always been ahead of the curve on environmental sustainability.
During his first term as governor in the 1970s, he authorized a first-ever tax incentive for rooftop solar and rolled back a tax break for oil companies.
He helped make water conservation a way of life during the 1976-77 drought, a California ethos that largely persists to this day.
Now in his fourth (and final) term in office, Governor Brown has an opportunity to round out this impressive environmental résumé: he can transform California into a climate-friendly farming pioneer.
The Great Valley Center released a report on the air, land and water in the San Joaquin Valley in July 2012 that emphasized the need to further improve air quality, preserve and enlarge water resources, and adopt green technologies to support sustainable San Joaquin Valley growth. San Joaquin Valley air quality is improving, but the "easy" or less costly reductions in emissions have already been made.
The report analyzed grant programs that subsidized the replacement of older cars and tractors with newer ones, but did not analyze whether subsidized replacement programs were the best way to use limited tax monies to improve San Joaquin Valley air quality.
By Rich Rominger and Renata Brillinger
Food and farming is a big part of California’s identity. After all, the state produces 400 different crops and livestock products and provides more than half of the U.S. supply of fruits, vegetables and nuts and is the country’s leading dairy supplier. Many agricultural landscapes pervade California culture — cattle grazing among oak woodlands; vineyards splashing fall colors; almond orchards blooming pink in spring; vast rows of tomatoes, strawberries and lettuce, and more.
This year, California’s long-anticipated cap-and-trade program goes into effect. The ground was laid for the program in 2006 when Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, the country’s most comprehensive climate protection policy. Under the law, California will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
After much debate, legal challenge and a ballot measure attempting to stop it, beginning this year the first steps of implementing cap-and-trade will get underway with full implementation beginning in January 2013.
Under cap-and-trade the largest polluters of GHGs are required to “cap” and subsequently reduce their GHG emissions through a combination of renewable energy production, energy efficiency and related measures. Alternatively, polluters can partially meet their obligations by purchasing additional “allowances” (aka permits to emit GHGs) or by buying “offset credits” on the carbon market from other entities that are voluntarily reducing their GHG emissions.