Farming incentives are imperative for the agricultural industry to meet some of the standards for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions moving forward. At the California Air Resources Board’s (ARB) April hearing, an update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan was heard which detailed plans for new areas that will be included in the plan. ARB voted to incorporate the Natural and Working Lands Implementation Plan for using agricultural land, grasslands, and wetlands to mitigate climate change into the Scoping Plan. The move could have significant ramifications for farmers and ranchers.
“We’ve seen this evolution of what starts as a well-intentioned proposal to give farmers credit for sequestering carbon, but without that concrete amount of funding available, it becomes a question of ‘why aren’t growers and ranchers and dairymen and women doing this?’ said Taylor Roschen, Director of Commodities and Land Use with California Farm Bureau Federation’s Government Affairs Division. “We need those incentives in order for us to take the financial risk on these practices.”
California’s farmers and ranchers are already working to implement practices to help address GHG emissions, while simultaneously navigating the requirements set forth in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The agricultural industry has made great strides in recent years in its efforts to meet air quality and GHG standards, thanks in large part to incentive funding that has made the progress possible. However, the current budgetary constraints put a number of incentive programs in jeopardy. “With the new fiscal outlook in California we have even more misgivings about the capacity to achieve whatever goal is created and adopted in the update of the Scoping Plan,” Roschen noted.
Several initiatives such as the Healthy Soils Program, Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program, and the Alternative Manure Management Program have helped the agricultural industry to adopt new farming practices to address California’s climate change goals. Although it appears that the May Revise from Governor Gavin Newsom is relatively mild in terms of funding reductions given the current state of affairs, the future of farming incentives remains a significant concern for the industry.
“The Governor’s budget reflected a narrative that this is not just a one-year budgetary crisis. We are going to see impacts in year-two and year-three,” Roschen explained. “When it’s time to incorporate into the Scoping Plan we’ll still be under the financial impacts that we’ve incurred during this crisis. So, I hope [ARB] takes that into context and potentially revise their decision.”