CDFA is in the midst of preparing California’s recommendations for the 2018 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is renewed every five years and serves as the policy guideline for food and farming in the United States. The legislation touches all of us in numerous ways, as this series of blog posts explains in greater detail.
The formula is simple — a healthy planet means healthier, more productive farms. California’s farmers and ranchers embrace this concept every day. By leveraging the tools provided in the 2014 Farm Bill, California has led the way in on-farm conservation practices, combating climate change, improving habitats, and protecting wildlife. Consider these facts when thinking about California agriculture and its role in protecting habitat life and the environment:
- 75 percent of California’s private farmland supports wildlife
- Our climate smart agricultural practices help save an estimated 546,950 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually (That’s the equivalent of removing 12,000 vehicles from our roads!)
- By acting as a carbon sink, one acre of California rice can remove up to 23,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
- Efficient irrigation systems help save 12.2 billion gallons of water per year
The continued success of environmental stewardship and sustainable management practices depends on a partnership with the federal government. Support for programs in the Conservation and Energy titles of the Farm Bill are instrumental in maintaining the health and productivity of our agricultural lands. Here are some more details about the specific titles and how they assist our farmers and ranchers in maintaining a healthy planet:
The Conservation Title is the heart and soul of the Farm Bill’s environmental programs. It authorizes funding for several conservation programs, including the Conversation Reserve Program, (the CRP), the Environmental Quality Inventive Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program.
Although each of these programs has varying goals and funding, their prerogatives are similar – promote environmental stewardship while protecting the environment. One program in particular, EQIP, has been particularly successful in allowing California farmers and ranchers to leverage federal assistance to promote a variety of environmental projects. These include improving air quality, addressing wildlife habitats within the California Bay-Delta Central Valley watershed, supporting beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers/ranchers, and creating on-farm energy plans.
The Farm Bill’s Energy Title allows farmers, ranchers and rural communities across the country to use renewable energy to power their homes while also supporting their agricultural operations. In California, programs like the Rural Energy for America (REAP) has provided funding to support solar and energy efficiency projects across the state.
The energy title allows California’s specialty crops to also play a role in biofuel research development. Programs like the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), Biomass Research and Development Initiative, and the Bio Refinery Assistance Program (BAP) allow California commodities like almonds and walnuts to be included as potential sources for biofuel. A recent study found that a blend of almond biodiesel with regular diesel fuel reduced greenhouse gas and total particulate emissions, when compared to diesel fuel alone. This sort of research is not only promising, it also demonstrates how California farmers and ranchers will continue to play a vital role in supporting sustainability and environmental stewardship in the years ahead.
A future farm bill must remain committed to supporting, developing and embracing robust conservation practices. As the country’s leader in the fight against climate change, California farmers and ranchers will continue to utilize the tools provided in the Farm Bill to maintain the health and quality of their operations, while also improving the environment around them.