Transcript: The Climate and Agriculture Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities (CA Climate Policy Summit 2024)

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Baani Behniwal (01:02:25):
Hi everyone. Thank you so much for coming to this panel on climate and agriculture. My name is Baani Behniwal and I’m the Natural Carbon Sequestration Initiative manager at The Climate Center. So next up, I just wanted to do a couple of housekeeping rules before we kick it off to the moderator. One is that we hope that you all join us for the reception happening at five o’clock that’s going to be downstairs by the ballroom area. It’s in the pit as they call it, not to be confused with the two receptions happening by the bar on the first floor, there is a drink ticket in the back of your name tag. So please do use that. That’s good for one drink. And then afterwards, you’re free to purchase as many as you want. That’s it for me for now. And with that, I will hand it off to our fabulous moderator for the day. Jamie Fanous, policy director from Calf.

Thank you. Hello. Hi everyone. I will try my best to speak the least and speak briefly, but yeah, I just want to introduce myself. Yeah. My name is Jamie ous. I’m the policy director at caf, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. We are a 46-year-old California based organization that provides technical assistance and support to California small and underserved farmers. And I’m so excited to moderate this session today with such smart and powerful and influential leaders in the climate and acts space. So yeah, today we will be talking about nature-based solutions in agriculture. What is the role of agriculture in reducing emissions, increasing energy efficiency, public health and like long-term, rural livelihood, while also managing the true climate disasters that exist right now from drought to flooding to wildfires, which threaten the future of food production.

So today we’ll really be discussing those real changes and what opportunities there are to uplift farmers given the impacts that they’re dealing with on the ground. We have three amazing speakers and I will kind of go through, introduce each of them and then they’ll have about 10 minutes to present and then we’ll get into q and a. And of course our first is state Senator Melissa Hertado, who is the first from her family to graduate from college. She attended Sacramento State University where she received her degree in political science prior to becoming the youngest woman ever elected to the California State Senate in 2018. Senator Hurtado served on the Sanger City Council. She’s in the legislator, is known to be a thoughtful policy maker who has worked across this way, party lines to improve the quality of life for residents and to ensure rural voices are heard at all levels of government. She focuses on rural community issues that often go unheard in the state capitol, access to clean air, water, food insecurity, inequalities and environmental policy, agriculture and access to healthcare in rural communities. So I’ll just hand it to you, Senator. Yeah, come on up. Okay.

Senator Melissa Hurtado

Alright. Good afternoon everyone. Happy ag Day. I think we need some coffee or drinks. It’s such an honor and pleasure to be here with you this afternoon. I chair the California State Senate Ag Committee and I’ve been in the legislature now for five years and been kind of, I lay low usually people don’t really, sometimes they’re not so much familiar with the work that I’ve been focused on. Largely, I’ve been focused on all things my senate district, because I don’t know many, how many of you are aware of this, but I actually flipped a seat, the Senate seat from red to blue.

It was a tough thing to do. And I won reelection in 2022 and I won by 20 votes. 20 votes. And then it actually went down to 13 when they did the recount. But it was really an election for me to lose. And I’m going to talk a little bit about it because I think it really heavily ties into the discussion of today I won and I barely just won because of my ability to reach across party lines and talk about issues that really unite us all. And so I tell my farmers down in my senate district, you may call it a drought, I may call it climate change, Sacramento may call it climate change. You may continue to call it a drought or a flood, but guess what, at the end of the day we’re talking about the same issue. And we all want to address these challenges that collectively we’re facing.

I’m not a farmer, I’m not losing money, I’m not at risk of losing a farm, but the food that you produce, if you lose it, that’s going to impact me and that’s going to impact people that don’t even know you and will never know you because it’s very much interconnected. And so climate change is impacting everyone and everything. And when we talk about food, we don’t really talk about it in the way that I learned actually from reading one of the research reports, I think it was the IPCC report, that when we talk about food, we really got to think about it in terms of the food, energy and water nexus. Because if we don’t, then we’re failing to address what we’re really trying to address. And agriculture, given that it’s mostly concentrated in rural communities, it often goes unheard. I mean if you look at even just the California State Senate Ag Committee, I feel like I can’t discuss anything because I have to request to be able to talk about water or how water is impacting farmers or how the floods are impacting farmers.

And there’s so much that really we need to modernize the way that we think about agriculture, the way that we talk about it, and especially in the legislature. I mean, one of the things that I’ve been pushing for is expanding the jurisdiction of our committee. So because it’s always traditionally been just kind of tied and connected to rural representatives that the fact of the matter is that it impacts everybody no matter where you live. And we all got to have an understanding in the importance of it. And especially if we’re trying to address climate change, we have to be able, rural representatives got to have a seat at the table and the process. But at the same time, we also got to make sure that we do a lot more education for those that don’t live in agricultural communities and how it’s all tied. And so I always tell colleagues that represent other parts of the state, your constituents care about the cost of food.

Well guess what? That’s a climate change ag issue. We don’t think about it in that context, but that’s what it is. We talk about health, that’s something also that’s very much tied to food. One of the things that I more or less knew already but even learned a little bit more is how climate change is going to impact crops and the types of diseases that are going to be tied to that. The food just being, having these different toxins and how it’s going to grow in different parts of the world. When I was talking about those things, and I want to be able to talk about them a whole lot more, but we got to be able to think differently, talk differently about agriculture and not just in my senate district and how I talk to really conservative Republican farmers. How do we unite around this issue that is really important to all of us?

Because I know I like food, I know I like to, and I think we all need to survive. So if we unite around this issue that’s so important and critical to all of us, I think we could make the necessary changes that are needed to overcome the climate crisis. But if we don’t connect with people that we politically disagree with, we’re going to have some serious issues because in a way we can be our own worst enemies in tackling climate change. If we’re unwilling to talk to those who think different or who vote different because they are very heavily. And also part of the solution tell you a lot of the narrative out there in conservative circles is this is the green scam. The green scam, why? And it’s going to start resonating with people, right? Because when farmers are going out of business and they’re struggling because some policy that’s supposed to help them or help the environment and they’re going bankrupt, it resonate.

It begins to resonate even though it’s not true. Oh yeah, the green scam. Well no, it’s not a green scam. This is very much real. And whether or not you have this policy that whatever it is, if it actually helps you or not, at the end of the day it’s still going to, the climate crisis is still going to impact you whether or not this policy is there. But we need to have those tough conversations and meet people in the middle. And the big C word compromise is not a bad thing. It’s a great freaking start. And that’s where we should start. So, so happy to be here with you today. Sorry I’m running out of air. I promise I’m not nervous. It’s just been a long day. But that’s where we got to start. And I’m willing to be at the table and help where I can to make sure that no one suffers because that’s what climate change is ultimately doing. It’s going to create a lot of suffering. It already has, and it’s up to us to determine whether or not we’re going to allow more for it to happen. So thank you.

Jamie Fanous (01:13:43):
Thank you so much. Senators Compromise. Next up we have Colton Es, who is the associate policy director at the California Climate and Agriculture Network or calcan, where he leads their federal policy work. Previously he was with the American Sustainable Business Network where he oversaw policy campaigns for the Regenerative Agriculture I Justice Initiative. He also has worked with Food Tank and the institution for local self-Reliance, the Rhythm Superfood Coalition, where he leads participatory action research project to publish the article, ecological cost discrimination Racism, red cedar and Resilience in the Farm Bill. And he has an in global environmental policy from the American University. Take it away, Colton.

Colton Fagundes (01:14:52):
Genius. Thank you. All right, that works. Hi everyone. Thanks for showing up.

I’m going to talk today about agriculture as a climate solution. Farmers as a climate solution, as a senator was just talking about sometimes farmers aren’t always aligned with the environmental community, but I think that that division has been one that’s historically happened and doesn’t have to be that way. Farmers can very much be part of the climate solution in many different ways. And actually our other panelist is going to talk a little bit more about the science after I talk some of the policy. So if you’re not as familiar with sort of the ins and outs of carbon soil, carbon sequestration and things like fertilizers, contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. And I think she’s going to be covering some of those. And I’m going to be talking specifically today about federal opportunities for incentivizing and supporting farmers to be part of the climate solution. So why are we talking about federal policy when I think a lot of our discussion a has been around state policy and we are in Sacramento.

I think I was asked to talk about it today because of the deficit, a lot of the great climate smart agriculture programs that exist on the state level. Unfortunately it looks like probably not going to have funding this year. So it’s an opportunity to tap in California Farmers to federal funding opportunities. And actually at calcan we are in discussions with California Department of Food and Ag about expanding some of their technical assistance programs to connect California farmers with federal funding opportunities. So I’m going to talk mostly, sorry, these slides are pretty boring, but I have a very high level, I’m going to stay very high level, very general. We don’t have too much time today, but I’m going to be talking about the farm Bill, USDA, natural Resource Conservation Service programs, briefly, some other USDA programs, the Inflation Reduction Act and how that relates to these programs and Farmers’ Climate Solution.

And also if we have some time, might delve into a little bit on Farm bill negotiations and advocacy around Farm Bill might not have time. So for those that, sorry if this is old news for some of those in the room, but the U-S-D-A-N-R-C-S programs that can fund farmers to adopt a variety of different practices that help ’em sequester carbon in their soil, reduce fertilizer emissions, adopt renewable energies, and a variety of other practices that are overall and building climate resilience. The same practices that are building climate resilience are often always the ones that are reducing impacts in climate change. So the first one, environmental Quality incentives program, just very, it’s a grant program that helps farmers offset the costs of management, purchasing, of equipment planning, labor, lost income for adopting practices. So the practices we’re talking about are like cover crops, crop rotations, application of mulch, rotational grazing, no-till has really big become very popular throughout much of the country.

Irrigation upgrades to save energy and so forth. And so these programs at the USDA, they don’t necessarily have, they don’t only fund practices that have a climate benefit, but a lot of the practices they do fund do also have of climate benefit on top of improving water quality, addressing habitat loss, biodiversity, a variety of different other environmental issues. But as we’re getting into the current administration is funding specifically these practices that have a climate benefit. So just going down the list real quick, conservation stewardship program is sort of the next step in the environmental quality incentives program. Farmers, after they’ve sort of started down that conservation journey, they can work with the USDA to create a conservation plan for their whole entire farm and start adopting more practices and they can get funding for that through the CSP program. The Regional Conservation Partnership program is a grant for nonprofits and also I think actually tribes, nonprofits as well as state-based agencies can receive funding under RCPP to do outreach to farmers to do conservation and Climate Smart Planning Conservation Reserve program takes land out of production that’s marginal, which can have a climate benefit conservation innovation grant works with farmers to do pilot projects and research for new and innovative conservation and climate smart approaches.

So going down these, I’m not going to go into them very deep, but just for everyone’s reference, some other USDA programs that are helping to fight climate change. There’s renewable energy incentives.

The only other one I’ll talk about briefly is the Partnership for Climate Smart Commodities program, which came out a couple of years ago. It was a big initiative, billions of dollars that came out of the Biden administration to work with. And actually the California state received quite a bit of funding under this, under the Dairy Plus program to bring together nonprofits, state agencies, businesses, farmers to start transitioning to climate smart practices and start also recording that data to be able to ground truth for the USDA so they can actually understand how much these practices are contributing to reducing climate impact so that it can inform future policy. So that was a one time large influx of money a couple years ago.

So some more funding data in here. So the Inflation Reduction Act was the bill that built back better as it was initially called, that was passed a couple years ago now that I’m sure as everyone knows here, hundreds of billions of dollars for climate across sectors, mostly towards energy. But there was also within that $20 billion for Climate Smart Agriculture for agriculture is a nature-based solution for climate change. That funding, that $20 billion goes all those programs I was talking about earlier under the USDA. It’s basically just influx of cash into that. So really this is an important data point to know that those programs are highly over-prescribed super popular, they’re two of ’em to go back. Well environmental quality is incentive program. There’s about four times as many applicants as there is grants given. So farmers love these programs. Conservation stewardship is about three times as many and that’s even with this extra 20 billion that came in from the Inflation Reduction Act.

And these programs are still over-prescribed very popular with farmers. So this right here was just, this is how much money has came into California for these programs from the IRA last year. So you can just see the numbers there. And importantly, all this funding that came from the Inflation Reduction Act, it doesn’t fund all agriculture conservation programs. They have a list that came up that according to the science and the USD’s current understanding, they’re only funding practices with this money that do indeed have a climate impact. So that’s, as you can imagine, made it a little bit more controversial with some members of the Ag committee, some policymakers that are not on board with, well sometimes deny the existence of climate change. So that leads up to Farm Bill advocacy. I actually do have a couple minutes here. So Farm Bill, what is it? Briefly? Thank you.

Farm Bill is a, and again, sorry, doing the basics for if I’m boring, anyone that’s worked on this before. But it is a package and it’s called an omnibus legislation that’s passed every roughly four to five years. It’s about 1.5 trillion. The next one will estimated 1.5 trillion over 10 years. And it funds basically all the usda, almost all the USDA’s activities across a variety of different, so these conservation programs, conventional subsidies, crop insurance research, as well as actually the majority of the funding goes towards nutrition programs like snap, the childhood nutrition programs. That’s a different bill. And currently we’re in the middle of negotiations. It got delayed, it’s supposed to pass last year, but Congress can’t get anything done currently or is struggling to. So it looks like it might be next year. So one of the main things that we’re working on in this farm Bill, so I listed a variety of different, this is again for reference and come talk with me afterwards or I encourage you to go to the website for National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to learn about some of these other policy proposals because you can’t see the info on ’em here, but you can find ’em on that website that we’re trying to get into this farm bill that would transform the farm bill across all the different titles to support agriculture as a climate solution.

So there’s a variety of different policies, but the main one that I want you all to take away from if you are working in advocacy or talking with people is we’re trying to protect that $20 billion that was in the inflation reduction Act. There’s currently a huge, there’s an attempt and it’s one of the main things stalling the farm bill to move that 20 billion for climate smart agriculture into conventional subsidies. So as a community in the climate smart ag world, that’s kind of our main rallying point is let’s protect that funding. Let’s talk to our members of Congress, let’s talk with farmers to get them to advocate and let’s make sure that we can continue to have support for these programs and advancing farm, sorry, farmers as a climate solution.

Jamie Fanous (01:25:33):

Alright, one more speaker. So our next speaker is Elena Bach, who’s the regional AG and Climate Hub coordinator and the agriculture program manager at the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts. Through her work, she focused on the co-development of regional coordinated efforts at the RCDs to scale climate beneficial agriculture through the state of California. She earned her PhD in environmental systems from uc. Merced, I will hand it over.

My name’s Elena Bischak, and this is, if you saw my talk at the plenary, going to be a bit similar, but I’m going to dive a bit more into the science behind AG as a climate mitigation solution. So again, I’m presenting our RCD regional Ag and Climate Hubs program that’s in development.

So a bit of background about why emissions from AG are important to California. This is from carbs 2021 estimates of greenhouse gas emissions by scoping plans subcategory. And you can see that agriculture accounts for over 8% of those emissions. You can see it disaggregated by livestock crops and fuel use and some background about what those emissions mean and what potential there is to mitigate emissions in agricultural systems. So the U-S-D-A-N-R-C-S defines carbon sequestration as the process by which atmospheric carbon dioxide is captured and stored in perennial biomass and soils of agricultural agroforestry and forestry systems. So what this means basically is increasing the stocks of soil carbon in our working lands, this area down here, and I just want to say that emissions are a part of agriculture. They will never go away. They’re mediated by our soil microbial processes and their emissions are not limited to CO2.

Also NDO nitrous oxide emissions are much lower in concentration, but really important because they’re a lot more potent than CO2 is almost 265 times more potent than carbon dioxide. We also have methane emissions from saturated soils and from, sorry, and from management of organic waste like manure and methane, depending on how you’re looking at it, is between 20 and 85 times as potent as CO2, but also much lower concentrations in the atmosphere. But thinking about all of these things are really important for thinking about how ag contributes to climate change and then also thinking about how we can increase soil carbon stocks and also standing wooded biomass that would store carbon for long periods of time on our agricultural landscapes to help mitigate climate change. So in thinking about the diversity of ways that we need to implement to mitigate climate change, soil carbon is really important to be thinking about because it’s the largest terrestrial store of carbon in the world. We have our oceans, our larger store of carbon, but when we’re looking at the soil is where that carbon is stored. And also all of our agricultural soils really across the world are depleted in soil carbon. So implementing practices that would restore that stock is just a really important climate mitigation solution.

So again, carbon farming, I talked about this in the plenary, but this is a system by which we look at the whole farm and think about how much carbon can be stored by implementing multiple practices through a detailed plan. Things like compass, application managed grazing, lower no-till planting, silver pasture riparian restoration, and think about how much we can store in that working landscape. And then I touched on RCDs, but if you’re unfamiliar where organizations across the state of California, there’s 95 working across California. So if you don’t know your local RCD, reach out and find out how you can get involved in local conservation. But we work with communities on a voluntary basis to conserve natural resources on that land. And so our RCD AG and climate hubs kind of pair these two ideas and work towards regional collaboration at the RCD scale to scale climate beneficial ag with the focus on soil health investment and carbon farming.

And we really want to understand what the barriers are to the scaled implementation of these practices throughout California. So here’s our coordinators. I present them at the plenary, but I will show a QR code with their info at the end so you can reach out and understand what regional coordination is happening in your area of the state. And I just want to talk a bit about what’s going on in one of our longer lived hubs, the North Coast Soil Hub. So this is an example of how RCDs provide technical assistance. This is an example from a riparian restoration project on an 18 foot stretch of creek on a family dairy in Sonoma County. So the RCD was instrumental in doing multiple steps of this project involved in planning. They also had a trusted relationship with the Landover owner for over 20 years and coordinated funding from multiple sources. RCDs are really good at doing this. We talked about IRA funding, which is like a once in a generation opportunity for climate beneficial ag funding and RCDs are really critical in leveraging that funding on a local level.

And that the hub, the North Coast Soil Hub, which has been really in development for the past 10 years, but really off the ground in the past three years, works across Humboldt, Mendocino, lake Sonoma, Napa and Marine Counties with RCDs U-S-D-A-N-R-C-S and other partners to work on how to scale this climate beneficial ag work. In doing that, they provide one-on-one guidance to farmers and ranchers to make those climate beneficial decisions. They host workshops and trainings that facilitate that learning and they also work to study, assess, and monitor and actually bring research into the process to understand what’s happening longer term.

And I just want to assert this again, that investing in soils just has so many co-benefits beyond climate mitigation. As I said, climate mitigation, there’s such huge potential in our ags because we’re already managing them and the soils are for the most part depleted and so much carbon can be put back in those soils. But there’s also benefits for food security, biodiversity, public health, both in terms of reducing wind erosion with healthier soils, but also reduce pesticide use, reduce fertilizer inputs that have better outcomes. For our watersheds water conservation meeting Sigma goals, we have to be focused on increased infiltration rates on our working ag lands and also investing in soils as better filter media to preserve our groundwater resources. And then profit, I mean investing in soils, long-term will lead to profit from reduced production costs and also there’s diversified income stream potential when you’re managing soils in a holistic way. So I’m just going to share this info again, you can connect with me and also connect with your local coordinator. Thank you so much.

Jamie Fanous

As you’ve probably noticed, we’re down to two speakers. Senator Hertado had a run, she’s a senator and it is Ag day and it is a very big day, so she had to get back to committee. I’m going to ask one or two questions and then I’ll open it up. So start priming those meaty questions as we talk through some of these other priorities primarily. One of the big questions I have for you all is, okay, I heard from you Colton, there’s a stupid amount of money that we could be leveraging right now for nature-based solutions. And then I’ve heard from you, Elena, like, yeah, we generally know what to do here. There’s probably a lot of science that we probably still need. So it’s like, what are the gaps? What are the gaps in leveraging that money? Utilizing that money? What are the challenges? You see there was a session here right before this about pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it into cement. Why is that getting more money than this? Honestly? Can we talk about those things and what are the gaps that you two See, those are a lot of questions, but I feel like just pick what you feel.

Colton Fagundes (01:34:38):
Okay, so I think, well, you hit it on the head that there is a lot of funding, but as I touched on, there’s still maybe not enough, especially if you’re just looking purely at interest from farmers in these programs and in climate smart practices, but in trying to get some support for those practices, they’re over subscribed, not prescribed. And so that’s one thing. We need more funding. We need to protect the funding. There’s still a lot more funding out there for conventional agriculture subsidies. There’s also, I think some, if you want to look at some more structural issues like with crop insurance, which I didn’t touch on because it’s a big complicated topic, but it’s very involved in the way federal crop insurance is structured. It supports conventional industrial mono cropp agriculture use of fertilizers and pesticides, and that’s a whole discussion, but that could be reformed and start shifting some of that funding towards more climate, smart, sustainable agriculture, other issues, what else is preventing us? And then you just get into political divisions in Congress, prevent some of that from happening. Have anything to add?

Elena Bischak (01:36:10):
Yeah, I just think something I’m learning in this job is that all of this work requires a lot of planning, so you have to do a lot of planning and then you can implement the plan. So finding ways to streamline that process I think is really important because sometimes there’s estimates that to get a conservation plan on the ground from inception to implementation, it can take three years. And I think if we want to scale this, that process needs to be streamlined. And I think doing that requires investing in a workforce that can do that. RCDs, as I mentioned, are not funded in the state of California at the state or the county level, which is pretty rare across the us. I think this is an old statistic from more than 10 years ago, but it’s one of seven states that does that, which is pretty shocking given California’s climate mitigation goals and massive ag economy. So not investing in those public, those state entities, which RCDs are to do. That leads to a lot of staff turnover, a lot of loss of institutional knowledge and just this constant treadmill of applying for state and federal funds based on project outcomes rather than scaled implementation across our agricultural landscapes. So that’s not such a solutions oriented answer, but I think that investing in the workforce, investing in training of those people, because a lot of times RCD staff require NRCS certifications, which are really hard to access to get NRCS.

And I think also just thinking on a regional scale, because a lot of times RCDs will compete against each other for these funding sources. So the hubs allow the RCDs to come together and apply for grants on a regional basis and mitigate some of that upfront work that comes with grant applications. Yeah, add to that,

Colton Fagundes (01:38:05):
I think that point on workforce is vital. We’re realizing now how much of a shortage we have of a workforce trained in ecological knowledge and agroecological knowledge, and it’s really actually a bottleneck. There’s a problem where there’s not enough people doing the great work that Elena is doing in general, just there’s not enough funding out there to hire people at RCDs and at the NRCS. So all that funding that we have to help with farmers is not, it’s struggling to get out the door. And there’s sort of this fear that as we pump more money into trying to, farmers are demanding this money, and if we can actually get it, there’s not enough people hired at the institutions that can connect them with the funding and also provide the technical assistance. But then even beyond that, we don’t have enough people trained for them to hire. So it’s a two step we need to first train people because there may be, I don’t know if you have insights on why that is, but maybe there just hasn’t been much of a workforce demand for it. So people haven’t been studying it as much in universities and such, but we need to get people trained and then actually hire them to work with farmers.

Speaker 13 (01:39:23):
A quick follow up, are there any pieces of legislation or policies or things floating around the state level or the federal level to address some of those gaps? Well, I mean, we all know we’re in a state deficit, so it’s kind of a spooky situation, but there’s also an unprecedented amount of federal funding that could be used to do these things and is being used. And so I think investing in the workforce to do that at RCDs, I’ll just continue to say, is a great way to get that funding under California’s agricultural working lands and continue to advocate for programs like Healthy Soils Sweep not being cut in the state budget. Yeah.

Colton Fagundes (01:40:17):
Yeah, I think that’s right. And then I think there is also an opportunity to advocate for some of the bills that I put up there that as a community we’ve been advocating for in this current farm bill, which unfortunately a lot of it’s probably not going to happen. Some of it might happen, but there’s always the next farm bill to work towards putting more money towards universities for these programs and training people and the various sciences and agri college and so forth. And then more funding. So it comes down to more money. Yeah, more money for universities, more money to hire the people, more money to work with farmers. Yeah.

Jamie Fanous (01:40:56):
I’ll name a couple bills.

Colton Fagundes (01:41:00):
On the state level, I’m not sure.

Jamie Fanous (01:41:02):
Yeah, I can name one that Calcan and Calf are a part of, which is AB 4 0 8, and maybe we’ll just hand it to Brian. I’m just kidding. AB 4 0 8 by assembly member Wilson is a food and farm bond coalition. There’s 18 nonprofit co-sponsors of that food and Ag organizations. It’s a bond, it’s roughly a 3.3 billion bond. That is basically the makeup of all of our dreams in terms of resources and funding that we would want to see invested in the food and agriculture system from supporting farm workers, from ramping up our infrastructure gaps that we certainly have at regional scale investing in land access, you name it, it’s kind of in there. It’s kind of this dream that we have. So if you want to support those things, awesome. There’s also other legislation that’s focused on just improving the infrastructure for farmers. One is, oh no, I forgot.

The number of the bill is a bill that and Calcan are co-sponsoring, which is a regional farm equipment and farmer co-op program that went through the legislature last year, and I remember that number, but got reintroduced this year and I am blanking on the number. And it’s by assembly member Bennett. And one day Brian is going to give me that number, AB 2313 AB 2313. Thank you so much. And it’s just trying to get at some of these gaps that we’re talking about. We actually need to be enhancing the infrastructure and the opportunities for farmers to collaborate in order to take advantage of a lot of the funding that already exists. With that, we are opening it up to questions from y’all. I’m ready. Let’s hit it pal in the back with the glasses.

Speaker 16 (01:43:08):
A product of the back to the land movement from the late sixties and early seventies, and at one point I realized there was a really beautiful meaning to being conservative. And that goes to the point of senator that we have to embrace that. And I’ve been operating off of microgrids for over 50 years, and in 1990, I started building electric vehicles right away, realized that electric cars did not make very much sense because of the weight of the batteries back then. And so I switched to building electric tractors in 92. I think I was the only one in the world building electric tractors for 25 years. And that goes to the last thing you said of this agricultural equipment. Actually electric tractors are 10 to 20 times more efficient than diesel hydraulic tractors. The Air Resources board, in its wisdom or lack thereof, has spent $500 million replacing old diesel tractors with new diesel tractors when we could have replaced them with much more efficient electric tractors, especially if you combine those with electrified implements.

We can produce tractors that use one 10th the amount of energy and require only onsite renewables for charging, so you can eliminate the entire fossil fuel infrastructure that’s necessary to make farms more productive now. And that goes right to the economic bottom line of farming. You can do things less expensively in a really conservative way by using solar energy instead of old solar energy out of the ground. So I, I don’t know how many of you have heard of electric tractors, but I’ve been trying to make people aware that they exist for 30 years and hope that at some point they’re embraced and brought into this whole discussion. Thank you very much. Thanks.

Speaker 18 (01:45:53):
Yeah. Tell Air Resources Board to care about electric tractors. Fair. Yeah, go ahead. Yep.

Speaker 19 (01:46:03):
Thank you very much. I’ve been hearing a lot about all these solutions and I’m somewhat familiar with some of them, but I’m wondering about the other side of the equation, which is the farming community in California. How receptive is the farming community? I know it’s diverse in terms of being corporate and some family. What’s the makeup of it? And I was also interested in Senator Hurtado’s capacity to reach out to farmers in her region and talk about solutions that could be climate friendly, even if those farmers may not be thinking that climate change is real. So I’m just curious because we drive through the Central Valley, there’s signs that say down with Governor Newsom, and so what’s really happening and where is the edge of that that people may be working on to help farmers take advantage of these programs?

Jamie Fanous (01:47:06):
Thank you. Yeah, I just want to talk a bit about that from the RCD regional Ag and Climate Hub perspective. I think climate can be a tricky word in ag and folks think that it’s just going to lead to more regulation, and that’s something that there can be pushback against. But it’s kind of why we chose to not brand ourselves as carbon farming hubs, because sometimes carbon can be a sticky word depending on what part of the state you’re in, unfortunately. But we just want to work with folks to do conservation because we’re all working to towards the same goal whether or not we think we are, if we’re planting a cover crop, and we can agree about that from different perspectives. So I think that’s one of the benefits of us having regional coordinators to understand the regional terminology that surrounds this work. And also RCDs develop trusted relationships with landowners on an institutional level, and that can be really important for working with folks across the political aisle to do these things.

Colton Fagundes (01:48:16):
I was going to add briefly to that, just I think an important kind of weaving together, the last two comments. There are a lot of farmers in California and the Central Valley especially that are not on board with this yet, with soil health practices, with regenerative climate smart practices. We do see, but growing interest here and across the country and in my own work, and I think a lot of our advocacy work, the way we talk about it with farmers that might not believe in climate change, that might not care about, they might talk about the weather, but they don’t believe that’s being caused by humans. We talk about instead about soil health, we talk about resiliency and we talk about bottom lines. There is a lot of examples out there, and then there’s some economic research to sort of ground truth that or prove that often improving soil health can improve economic conditions in a variety of ways.

Both saving from the bottom line, just saving money on fertilizers and pesticides, and then also improving losses to extreme weather events. Well, in California also, water retention is a huge point that we try to make with people. You improve your soil health, you’re in sequestering carbon, you can also drastically improve water retention, which helps with drought. It’s not going to completely reverse the effects of drought, but there’s lots of cases of farmers side by side that are using soil health, one using soil health practices, one that isn’t using soil health practices and through a drought period and how much better than one using soil health practices and they lot less crop loss. The profits are better in the end. So we get some very large conventional conservative farmers that are buying into this and you just got to sell it to them the right way.

Speaker 13 (01:50:16):
Yeah, all the way in the back.

Speaker 23 (01:50:25):
Thank you. I am not a farmer, but I’ve been following both of your groups for a while. I want to say thank you for what you’re doing and I want to tell a little story. A few years ago I had contact with Sasha Lozano, who is our CD on the Central coast area. And the way he was getting farmers in the Phar Valley to get involved was he was selling them on this year and next year and the year afters, water bill dropping, he wasn’t talking about climate change because to a lot of farmers it was something way in the distance and not really affecting. Now they might be a little more attentive, but the point was getting across to what was important and right there. And of course it wasn’t a lie, it was a hundred percent true. There were other good things that were going to come, but he wasn’t saying the things that might turn them off. Thank you.

Jamie Fanous (01:51:19):
Exactly. Other questions? Yeah, right here, right next to you.

Speaker 24 (01:51:26):
Hi. Part of what I was interested in hearing today that I really haven’t was the diet food waste management side of the climate equation, which I think from several sources is huge, but I guess this is the closest panel as is going to get to it. Any insight on the ideas that some people have of beef is really terrible, but there’s a ton of range land out there. And of course farmers love their cattle and the whole thing of importing beef from places like para destroys Amazon and has all sorts of other consequences. Is there any policy option to import less rely on California beef more, make it more climate friendly, or is there any sort of conversation that you all have had with these farmers about that sort of thing?

Yeah, thanks for the question. Yes, we are. And it’s a very, as you can imagine, controversial topic in the environmental and climate community. And it’s a very complex topic and don’t pretend to have all the answers or the exact right answers. But in short, yes, we do work with a lot of livestock producers, both for beef and other meat and for dairy in adopting better climate smart practices in a variety of different ways. So rotational grazing, there’s a lot of science. This is a key part of regenerative agriculture, is that if you are doing grazing in the right way and moving them sort of mimicking natural migratory patterns, you can improve soil health and improve carbon sequestration. It’s actually for a lot of ecologies, it’s better than crop production depending on where you’re talking about, especially the Midwest, the Great Plains area.

So there’s that part of it, like grazing livestock, that’s kind of the gold standard. If we could do all regenerative grazing the right way, it helps improve soil health and fight climate change at the same time. We’re at a point where we’re nowhere near that. And so we, at Calcan, we’re doing a lot of work with feedlots, with dairy feedlots across the state. Mostly we’re working mostly with smaller scale dairies to adopt a variety of different, what we call dry manure management practices. Basically keeping their manure out of the lagoons, which is where the methane emissions happen. There’s a variety of different practices that help do that. And then again, ideally they’re composting that which also has a whole bunch of other benefits, but in short can also work with dairy farmers that are, even if they’re not doing grazing to significantly and drastically reduce their methane emissions and other greenhouse gas emissions. You want to add?

Elena Bischak (01:54:50):
Yeah, I’ll just add that also the natural ecology of California involves ruminants. Elk used to graze this landscape. And so it’s not outside of the scope of the natural ecology for ruminants to be managed on those landscapes, but the climate impacts can be quite large when you’re not doing rotational grazing. I mean, the soil signs of it is that when there’s too much T trampoline going on, you’re going to move that soil around. You’re going to have carbon dioxide emissions from soil respiration, and it sounds small, but when it happens that scale, it has really big impact. And also when you’re not managing that waste in a thoughtful way, let’s say you can have a lot of methane emissions, a lot of nitrous oxide emissions, a lot of ammonia emissions, which also have really potent public health outcomes because they contribute to the development of PM 2.5, especially in our rural communities, which just have the outcomes there are pretty scary for public health. So there’s just a lot of interconnectedness in managing that waste in a meaningful way and also getting benefits from it. Using that compost on our ag glands and doing methane capture for the methane that does come out and just being mindful of leakage in those systems and also aerobic composting. It’s really important.

Speaker 14 (01:56:19):
One quick addition, just a little pitch for some people that, some dairy farmers up north and I believe Mendocino or Humboldt County that I met a couple times, Alexander Family Farms, and now they’re selling their milk in various stores and they’re a fairly large farm. I hope it’s okay. I’m doing a pitch for them. But they also have some really cool videos that you can see on the practices they’re doing and they’re doing regenerative, they’re certified regenerative organic, and they’re really doing larger scale dairy production in a really great way. And they’re actually, one of the fun facts is the elk in the region actually like their land, their dairy better than they like the neighboring conservation area because they’ve been able to improve the quality of the forage so much where they’re doing the grazing. Alexander Family Farms

Speaker 13 (01:57:19):
Sponsoring Calcan,

Speaker 13 (01:57:23):
They’re friends.

Speaker 23 (01:57:37):
I have a quick comment directly related to what you just said, which is that grasslands support a certain species of birds that do not exist elsewhere. So actually retaining some pasture land grassland grazing land is important for preventing biodiversity loss.

Speaker 13 (01:58:01):
Okay. Wait, no more question. Comments? Questions please.

Speaker 23 (01:58:07):
Okay, Colton, gosh, that’s scary you. On one of your slides, there were a number of programs that were maybe going to benefit from the IRA and one of them was a biomass crop assistance one, which then said in parentheses, unfunded since 2017. And I’m just wondering what’s the posture towards biomass at this point? Right.

Colton Fagundes (01:58:33):
I’ll just say that’s real quick. I haven’t worked on that program, but National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has, which we’re a part of,

And I believe they’ve been trying to get funding for that program for a while, but for, I don’t know the politics of why it hasn’t been funded, but I could connect you with the right people that be able to answer your questions.

Baani Behniwal (01:58:55):
Any parting words? Thank you all for listening.

Colton Fagundes (01:58:59):
Thank you so much.