California is the nation’s largest agricultural producer and exporter and the agriculture sector makes up roughly 8% of state greenhouse gas emissions. So in a state like California it’s important to include farmers in the conversation of climate change.
Governor Jerry Brown’s 2016 budget proposal includes about $3.1 billion for programs that address climate change, with $100 million of that total going to agricultural programs. A big change from last year’s funding of $15 million allocated to agricultural programs. Jeanne Merrill, Policy Director of California Climate and Agriculture, speculates that this major increase in funding is likely due to interest in protecting the nation’s food supply.
Some examples of agricultural programs that address climate change include funding for methane digesters at dairy farms, incentives for farmers who adopt or expand sustainable management practices, and the Healthy Soils Initiative.
A 2014 study done by UC Berkeley bio-chemist, Whendee Silver, found that applying compost to soil is a simple way of restoring carbon levels in degraded soils. Silver’s finding also concluded that the process also increases the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed, making compost application to land an effective way to combat greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture. Direct benefits to farmers and ranchers that apply compost to their land include improved soil fertility, decreased soil erosion, increased plant growth, and increased water retention.
If the budget is approved, $20 million will go to farmers who adopt management practices that improve the health of soil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “We need to reduce our fossil fuel emissions — there’s just no way around that problem,” Silver said. “But this is one of the things that we can do that certainly can make a difference. It’s inexpensive, it’s low technology, it’s good land use, it solves multiple problems.”
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