Encouraging sustainable ag practices

There are dozens of theories out there and hours of lectures have been given about climate change, heating up or cooling down — la Niña, el Niño — just mention climate change and brace for a debate. However, just about everyone in agriculture is clear about one thing: Our climate is extremely variable. Climate variability is already having huge impacts on agriculture, and those impacts, economic and social as well as physical, are predicted to increase in the future. Dealing with that variability, the reality of further climate change ahead of us and the ever-changing legislative landscape, such as the Global Warming Solutions Act (In 2006, California passed the country’s most comprehensive climate bill, AB 32) is all part of farming and ranching in California. So how can farmers and ranchers adapt to climate change, making agriculture part of the climate solution? Enter carbon farming.

Carbon farming is a process designed to maximize agriculture’s potential for moving excess green house gases from the atmosphere and storing or sequestering the GHG into the soil and vegetation, building fertility, productivity and resilience. It focuses on carbon as a key agricultural element and involves implementing common practices known to enhance the transfer and storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide as soil and biomass carbon. Improving soil-carbon retention is a critical step in mitigating climate change, and it can improve productivity.

There are many benefits for water as well, such as: Increasing infiltration rates (reducing runoff, erosion and flooding) increasing water holding capacity (keeping soils wetter for longer and, therefore, reducing the need to irrigate), improve ground water recharge and enhance water filtration. In our natural systems, you can think of water following carbon. In the soil, when you increase carbon you enhance the soil’s ability to capture and retain water. For every 1 percent increase in soil organic matter, soils can increase their water-holding capacity by about 27,000 gallons (or ±1 acre inch). So improving the soil also boosts its water-holding capacity, which will become increasingly vital as drought and severe storms continue to increase.

Farmers and ranchers can be part of a climate solution for California and the nation as a whole. Encouraging sustainable agricultural practices can reduce GHG emissions, enhance on-farm/ranch capacity for carbon sequestration and provide numerous environmental and public health co-benefits. California agriculture can be a leader in mitigating and adapting to climate change. With research proven practices, technical assistance and financial incentives, we can ensure that agriculture remains a viable, innovative, and ecologically and economically sustainable industry for years to come.

The Honey Lake Valley Resource Conservation District will be facilitating a Carbon Farming Workshop from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, at the Grange Hall in Johnstonville and is open to the public. This will be the first of its kind in this area of the state. There will be carbon farming industry, business and agency leaders from around the state, discussing carbon farming practices, the science and research behind it, financial opportunities and more. If you are a farmer, rancher, land manager or otherwise interested in carbon farming, you do not want to miss this workshop.

For more information or to view the workshop agenda, go to honeylakevalleyrcd.org and click on Carbon Farming or call the HLVRCD at 257-7271.