Through the many challenges of 2020, I am exceptionally thankful for the leadership of California farmers and ranchers who are implementing climate-smart agriculture practices and embracing innovation for climate and water resiliency. These adaptations are essential if California is to remain a world leader in food production throughout the 21st century and beyond.
At CDFA, our Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation (OEFI) partners with hundreds of farming and ranching families with incentive programs and technical assistance to support land stewardship, mitigate climate-warming greenhouse gases (GHGs), advance on-farm renewable energy production, enhance water use efficiency, and promote sustainability and resiliency.
These projects are funded through the California Climate Investments program. In the last two years we have awarded more than $155 million in grants for manure management, healthy soils, and water and energy efficiency; and we have achieved annual GHG reductions that are the equivalent of removing 713,000 vehicles from roadways!
We augment this grant funding with a technical assistance program that can be key to the success of small or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers who may not have the resources or technical expertise to complete the application process and implement improved on-farm practices. In this year alone we have assisted more than one-thousand farmers and ranchers in this way, in English, Spanish, Chinese, Hmong and Portuguese.
Another focus of OEFI is a commitment to biodiversity in support of California’s farmers and ranchers as foremost stewards of our working lands through a number of important practices, such as planting pollinator species, growing cover crops for soil health, avoiding practices that disrupt nesting of bird species, providing winter habitat on rice fields, helping endangered species thrive, and participating in large-scale habitat corridors.
I am grateful to the OEFI staff and the members of the Environmental Farming Act science panel that advises CDFA on these programs, as well as Resource Conservation Districts, UC Cooperative Extension, and USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service for their work as important technical assistance providers. And, I salute our farmers and ranchers who are leading us into a more sustainable, climate smart future.