California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross highlighted the importance of taking a more cooperative approach to address important issues in lieu of an ‘us-versus-them’ mentality between environmental and agricultural interests. While often the two groups are on opposing sides of a particular issue, both are working toward a sustainable future. Ross noted that the framework for variable flows is the first step in getting environmentalists and producers on the same page to protect the state’s water.
“I really give a lot of credit to farmers and landowners and some of the conservation groups that actually started partnering a decade or more ago,” said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). “If you look at people who are doing all the great habitat planting for monarch butterfly, or you look at the wildlife corridors that the wine industry has been very conscientious about the things that they do. We’ve done those in partnership with conservation organizations.”
The recent developments with the voluntary agreements established to address California water issues is a prime example of the value of taking a cooperative approach to multifaceted issues. Many concerns about water and soil are too big and complex for governmental intervention to address. “There’s not enough public dollars in the world to accomplish what landowners and farmers who care about this land so deeply and know it so well can accomplish,” said Ross.
While government action cannot wholeheartedly fix some issues, there are various programs and projects that are implemented to help facilitate collaboration between environmentalists and those involved in production agriculture. By bringing the two groups together it can help foster better understanding between the parties and accomplish significantly more than holding onto animosity towards each other.
“If you look at some of the great conservation programs in the farm bills in recent years, they’ve evolved to not only provide incentive dollars to the farmers, but fund regional scale watershed type approaches on some of this work,” Ross noted. “We fund a lot of demonstration projects as a way to bring partners together and then providing the technical assistance, so farmers know ‘what are the best practices for doing this and still maintain my productivity?’”