Crops, Cattle and Carbon (6/14/11)

Crops, Cattle and Carbon Cynthia Cory, Director of Environmental Affairs, California Farm Bureau Federation Paul Martin, Director of Environmental Services, Western United Dairymen Jeanne Merrill, California Climate Action Network Karen Ross, Secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture Making California’s farms more energy efficient, and ensuring that farmers can adapt to a warmer planet, will be a decades-long challenge, agrees this panel of experts gathered by Climate One. That a serious conversation on the linkages between agriculture and climate change even exists in California is largely thanks to passage of the state’s landmark climate change law, AB32. Cynthia Cory, Director of Environmental Affairs, California Farm Bureau Federation, says the way to sell this new reality to her members, most of them family farmers, is to focus on the bottom line. “What they think makes sense, is energy efficiency,” she says. Jeanne Merrill, Policy Director, California Climate and Agriculture Network, elaborates on what AB32 could mean for farmers. The proposed carbon trading system, currently under development by the California Air Resources Board, would enable a farm, she says, “to reduce its own emissions, voluntarily, by being part of the carbon market.” Still other opportunities await farmers. A cap-and-trade system would generate revenue, a portion of which, her organization argues, “should go for the key things that we need to assist California agriculture to remain viable when temperatures rise and water become more constrained.” Paul Martin, Director of Environmental Services, Western United Dairymen, says farmers should be guided by a three-legged stool of sustainability: ethical production, scientific and environmental responsibility, and economic performance. His distilled message: “We need organic food because people want it. We need grass-fed because people want it. We need natural because people want it. And we need conventional because people want that kind of food.” California’s new Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary, Karen Ross, is encouraged that food had finally entered the policy debate, and expresses optimism that young people will carry it forward. “There’s a renewed interest in where our food comes from, how it’s produced, and who is producing it.” She highlights the role of cities in shaping a more sustainable food policy. “It’s the real intersection of agriculture, food, health, and nutrition,” she gushes. “Cities are saying, ‘We can do something about this.’ It’s about identifying open plots for community gardens. It’s about making sure access to nutritious, locally grown food is available. It’s about understanding what it takes to help those farmers on the urban edge, or right in our local communities.” This program was recorded in front of a live audience at the Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco on June 14, 2011 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

by Climate One