Executive order aims to conserve land,
"an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom aimed at
conserving 30% of California's land and marine areas by 2030"
A new California Biodiversity Collaborative will help determine
how to carry out an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom aimed
at conserving 30% of California's land and marine areas by
2030—and agricultural organizations said they would participate
to assure the collaborative recognizes stewardship efforts
carried out on the state's farms and ranches.
Under Newsom's executive order, issued last week, state agencies
will "deploy a number of strategies to store carbon in the
state's natural and working lands and remove it from the
atmosphere." The state Department of Natural Resources will
assemble the biodiversity collaborative with the California
Department of Food and Agriculture, California Environmental
Protection Agency and other state agencies.
The collaborative will bring together additional governmental
agencies, business and community leaders, indigenous tribes and
others to explore ways to protect the state's biodiversity—the
definition of which, for the order's purposes, has not yet been
established. The order directs the collaborative to come up with
strategies to address biodiversity, economic sustainability and
food security by Feb. 1, 2022.
California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson said
although he's skeptical of executive orders for lawmaking
purposes, "we look forward to early and robust discussions about
the real work needed to protect California's working lands."
"Farming and ranching represent the oldest and best green
economy in the world, always focused on sustainability and
adaptability," Johansson said. "Growing plants pulls carbon out
of the air, and California farmers do that better than
anyone—all while conserving water, energy, soil and wildlife
habitat, and reducing emissions from equipment, vehicles and
Taylor Roschen, a CFBF policy advocate, said the practical
effect of the order on California farmers, ranchers and other
agricultural professionals depends on how the agencies and the
stakeholders, including Farm Bureau, "discuss what programs and
practices we use and whether or not that fits into how they
Defining the term is one of the jobs of the collaborative.
"If they define it from the soil level, such as microorganisms,
we may be able to get credit for participation in programs like
the Williamson Act or agricultural easements that preserve
agricultural lands, halt higher-density uses on those lands and
maintain soil habitat for diverse microorganisms," Roschen said.
Or, she said, "biodiversity" could be defined differently,
requiring overt on-farm management practices, in which case many
current agricultural-lands programs might not qualify.
"They've said that the job of that collaborative is to establish
a baseline, look at the impacts of climate change, inventory the
efforts that are taking place and track them, and then advance
what they've termed as multi-benefit projects," Roschen said.
That means Farm Bureau, other agricultural groups and individual
farmers and ranchers will need to describe what they do on a
regular basis to benefit biodiversity, she said, and to have the
agencies acknowledge and give credit to agriculture for those
efforts. Roschen said farmers and ranchers already take a
multitude of actions that fit with the state's goals.
"A simple practice such as crop rotation restores the
microorganisms of the soil and allows the biodiversity to
thrive," she said. "Rice has long been providing habitat for
wintering birds that are on the Pacific Flyway."
Grazing practices help control nonnative or invasive species,
she added, while planting cover crops and pollinator habitat can
help regenerate or attract beneficial species.
"Windbreaks control for erosion and maintain that healthy
topsoil and biodiversity," Roschen said. "Really, every
commodity seems to have more than a couple of different
Roschen said her goal is "to make sure we are an active
participant on that collaborative" in order to "share the good
things we're doing and to provide guidance to the agencies on
where they should make investments, not where they should
require additional regulations."
Johansson said new regulations would be counterproductive.
"Working lands only work when people are allowed to work them,"
Johansson said. "We must remember the need to produce affordable
food for people and maintain a regulatory environment that
allows new businesses to start and existing businesses to grow.
Actions stemming from this executive order should not intensify
the existing regulatory environment that ignores the economic
diversity of agriculture, and should not favor preservation over
the use of renewable resources for public benefit."
The California Cattlemen's Association said cattle graze 38
million acres of working lands in California and will have a
role in helping the state achieve its objectives.
"Livestock grazing and conservation are not mutually exclusive,"
CCA Executive Vice President Billy Gatlin said in a statement.
"California cannot reach its conservation goals without working
with ranchers to conserve rangelands and expand grazing in our
Roschen said public agencies need to be open to hearing from
private landowners and those who work public lands, noting that
the order requires CDFA to put together a group of agricultural
stakeholders to identify "farmer- and rancher-led solutions."
"Agriculture is inherently conservation-minded," Roschen said.
"All operations are. My hope is that they'll take that under
consideration and listen earnestly to what farmers, ranchers,
dairymen and foresters all have to say before they determine
what's going to be the course of action."
The governor's executive order pursues goals outlined in a bill
that failed in the state Legislature this year, Assembly Bill
3030 by Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose. CFBF led a coalition
of working-lands organizations opposed to the bill because the
measure did not consider the biodiversity benefits of the
Williamson Act land-conservation law, the Sustainable
Agricultural Land Conservation Program and agricultural
easements, among other things.
The order can be read at www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/10.07.2020-EO-N-82-20-.pdf.
(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant
editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.
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