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Farm Bureau president's message: Seize the opportunity to affect climate policy

Issue Date: February 10, 2021
By Jamie Johansson
Jamie Johansson

"Let your voice be heard," is something Farm Bureau members hear often. Whether it's at a local government meeting, in a boardroom or on your own operation, sharing insights from the field with people unfamiliar with agriculture can provide them with valuable knowledge and insight.

Your voice is important—and that's particularly true as government agencies craft policies meant to respond to climate change.

An executive order Gov. Newsom signed last year commits the state to protect 30% of land and 30% of water by 2030. The order required state agencies to support efforts to restore and enhance biodiversity, as well as efforts to help businesses grounded in natural and working lands to achieve carbon neutrality.

Under the order, for the first time, agriculture has been thrust into the spotlight for its on-farm carbon sequestration capacity.

Farmers and ranchers have long pointed out that our lands and practices do more than produce food, fiber, flowers and fuel—they have the potential, with proper incentives, to naturally remove carbon, helping all communities achieve climate resiliency.

To share the good work to date by California farms, ranches, nurseries and dairies, and to discuss how to unlock the greater potential of natural and working lands, the California Department of Food and Agriculture is hosting a series of virtual roundtables through February. The workshops began this week.

At these two-hour sessions, divided by agricultural subsector (dairy/livestock, annual crops, perennial crops), CDFA specifically wants to hear from farmers and ranchers on how to achieve the state's ambitious climate goals.

Many of us may be feeling "Zoom fatigue," but these sessions provide an unprecedented opportunity to put a face and a voice to California agriculture, and talk about true sustainability. And, as the old saying goes, "If you're not at the table, you're probably on the menu."

The recommendations CDFA gathers from these sessions will inform its next scoping plan, updated every five years, which outlines how the state can meet its climate goals. The scoping plan is a hotly discussed climate document and, ultimately, guides the administration and Legislature on who deserves the carrot—and who gets the stick.

We can't forget: The Biden administration is also focused on climate policy. In late January, President Biden announced the U.S. will commit to the 30x30 by 2030 pledge, and vowed to make America carbon neutral by 2050. It's likely California's early action will help frame what is possible—and importantly, what's not—on a national scale.

This topic may seem wonky to people who don't live and breathe climate policy, but its outcome will have real, on-the-ground implications. Farm Bureau has shared principles to help guide beneficial statewide action:

  1. Give credit where credit is due. Many farmers and ranchers already perform "climate smart" practices, such as cover cropping, no-till farming and applying compost—without state or federal incentives—and have been doing them for years. Let's make sure all that good work goes accounted for as the state starts to set a baseline.
  2. Consider California's diversity and scale. With more than 400 different commodities and a variety of cropping systems and farm sizes, a one-size-fits-all approach can hardly be the best path forward. Let's encourage practices that are more like a menu and less like a checklist.
  3. Make the menu easily accessible. Farmers and ranchers certainly need science on their side for new practices, and rely on the expertise of Cooperative Extension specialists and crop advisors, but on-farm practices that are readily understood and easy to implement are likely the ripest and most apt to be applied.
  4. Focus on field-level practicalities. As early adopters will tell you, every opportunity has challenges. Implementing an on-farm change with a full understanding of its tradeoffs (pests, costs, regulatory ramifications, etc.) is a must.
  5. There's no such thing as a free lunch. The goal of working lands should be to keep them working. For farms and ranches to meet their conservation goals, they must first meet their economic goals. That's true sustainability.

Every farm, every ranch, every field has a different story. At these farmer-rancher roundtables, people in agriculture have a chance to shape the trajectory of our future. So please join us and log in. Success is a decision.

Register to participate in one or all of the workshops at

CDFA Workshops on Climate Solutions

Agricultural Sector


Livestock/Dairy #1

Occurred Feb. 8

Livestock/Dairy #2

Feb. 12, 9 a.m.

Annual Crops #1

Feb. 16, 2 p.m.

Annual Crops #2

Feb. 19, 9 a.m.

Perennial Crops #1

Feb. 23, 2 p.m.

Perennial Crops #2

Feb. 26, 9 a.m.


Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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