SACRAMENTO — Between last summer’s heat waves and unprecedented wildfires, farmers and ranchers are increasingly experiencing more extreme and unpredictable weather, threatening their livelihoods. Assemblymember Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) recently introduced legislation to develop the tools farmers need to adapt to this new and fast-changing reality.
The “Ag Adaptation Tools” Bill (Assembly Bill 409) would establish a competitive grant program to develop climate adaptation tools and trainings for farmers and the technical assistance providers that serve them.
“Climate change has taken a toll on farmers throughout the state and in my district,” said Assemblymember Monique Limón. “To protect our agricultural businesses, the livelihoods of hardworking Californians and address a changing climate, we need to invest in our farmers and support their effort to face these growing challenges. I’m proud to author this bill.”
The state and University of California have made significant investments in research to better understand agriculture’s unique vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies to a changing climate, including in the state’s recently released Fourth Climate Change Assessment. But not enough has been done to translate climate risks to the farm level and assist farmers in adapting to climate change.
“Devastating heat and unseasonal Santa Ana winds this past year have made even the most skeptical farmers and ranchers in our community believers in climate change,” said Helen McGrath of Flying M Ranch in Fillmore. “Farmers and ranchers are hungry for data, new equipment, resources and trainings on how to remain competitive and adapt our operations to the fluxes caused by climate chaos.”
The bill would also fund trainings for technical assistance providers and agricultural organizations. According to a 2017 survey of 144 University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources staff, 88% of respondents believe it is important to incorporate climate change information into farm extension programs, but only 43% actually do. Respondents cited a lack of access to climate information relevant to farmers and expressed interest in education on technical tools and information resources.
“There are many tools in the toolbox for farmers to adapt to a changing climate and become more resilient, but we need to make those tools accessible and relevant,” said Jeanne Merrill, Policy Director with the California Climate and Agriculture Network. “From business planning to conservation management, we need to support farmers in staying on the land and thriving in ways that are good for them and our communities.”
–California Climate and Agriculture Network
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