I am sure we are all tired of hearing about climate change, and climate goals because we in the agricultural industry seem to be at the forefront of these issues every day. Whether we are being told that farmers and ranchers are killing the environment, complying with strict regulations for our diesel motors, or all the paperwork we must fill out to comply with many regulatory agencies, it is sure frustrating to feel like we have not been asked what we can do to help, but instead, being told what we must do.
As we all know CARB made new rules to take trucks that have barely run 3000 miles a year off the road, and now want us to spend millions on new generators that in a year will have 50 run hours (depending on the operation). Has anyone thought about how businesses will pay for these without the consumers’ food cost going up along the way? Did you know that according to some CARB data, urban land emissions use is 58 times greater than cropland? So why do I feel, when I hear our county’s environmental goals, the city of Santa Rosa, the state of California does not have agriculture on their radar?
We have some amazing grants on a state and federal level like NRCS, CDFA Alternate Manure management, and Healthy Soils Program that my family’s dairy took part in. However, much of the funding for those programs are getting cut, they are not the easiest to apply for and the turnaround time to get funds can take from months to years. So, why would someone want to apply for them when the hassle may be too big to handle upfront? When you look to our county and cities, I see them wanting to spend more money on electric buses to help with climate change. However, the last time I checked, people are not riding public transit because of COVID-19 and our power grid can’t even handle a hot day let alone more electric cars. Also, where are these batteries going to go when they are not able to be used? Disposal surely cannot be good for our environment. The city of Santa Rosa wants to be carbon neutral by 2030 using their so-called green energy from the Geysers. Is it really green, though? The City of Santa Rosa is sending water to the geysers for hydroelectricity instead of making sure their farmers, who have been using this water for years to raise agricultural crops and recharge the groundwater, receive water. Sadly, this year we may not receive any water and will have to redevelop wells to irrigate our pastures. Does that sound sustainable to you?
Our cities, county, and state need to be looking to farmers and ranchers as allies in climate change solutions as we are on the ground, stewarding our land and natural resources daily. We are using new technology to lessen our carbon footprint and work to adopt new practices that improve our efficiency and stewardship year after year. For example, our dairy just finished putting in our automatic scrapers thanks to a CDFA grant, and therefore we will be using fewer fossil fuels to perform a necessary chore on the farm. Now, we utilize a separator to make compost and put that back in our bedding. Another great success story is the Sonoma County winegrape industry, which has gone 99% sustainable, or the cattle ranchers who are utilizing compost, planting different grasses to get the best forage to feed their animals off the land while trying to better their soils for carbon sequestration. Why isn’t our county focusing on better managing their parks and lands that are not grazed and therefore a fire hazard? If managed correctly, these lands could sequester more carbon provide more local feed, reducing trucking, for animals. Meanwhile, I just recently read in The Press Democrat that the Bennett Valley Golf Course is being looked at to potentially put houses on it. Why take land that is benefiting the environment and put concrete over it? It makes no sense.
I challenge everyone to be at the table as climate talks start happening. Make sure you know who your legislators are including your county supervisor or city council representative. Fight for grant funding because without these programs we can’t meet the goals the state is setting for us. Look at programs like match.graze, which helps get grazing animals on lands that are huge fire hazards and fight legislation that would create stricter regulations. Encourage our county to provide grant funding so that we receive local support to meet climate-related goals. Together, let’s show our community that agriculturalists are the original environmentalist and that we are excellent stewards of our lands.