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California Climate Change Policy Leaves Out Agriculture

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

OAKLAND September 30 – California agriculture, which grows roughly 40 percent of America’s food, faces grave threats spurred by climate change, including volatile weather, crippling drought and assaults by growing hordes of pests. It also directly generates about 6 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In spite of agriculture’s vulnerability and contribution to global warming the sector was practically left out of the state’s climate change implementation strategy mandated by the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32), according to a new report released today, California’s Climate Change Policy Leaves Agriculture in the Dust, from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

"California agriculture has a lot to lose with climate change," said EWG senior analyst Kari Hamerschlag, author of the report. "It’s unfathomable that a state with a $33 billion a year agriculture industry and a history of leadership on climate change is demonstrating such an acute lack of institutional capacity and leadership on the issue."

The report finds that AB 32’s implementation strategy failed to establish meaningful emission reduction targets and present an effective action plan for agriculture, missing an urgent opportunity to motivate skeptical farmers to take steps that will both curb their own emissions and help them to better cope with a changing climate.
Hamerschlag’s report finds that careful studies have shown that several underused farm management practices, such as cover cropping, conservation tillage and organic fertilization, have the potential to deliver significant carbon sequestration benefits while helping farmers conserve water, maintain yields and resist weeds and pests in the face of climate change.

The report makes ten specific recommendations for addressing the inertia that has prevented California from taking effective action on agriculture and climate change and calls on policy makers to develop programs of targeted research, outreach, technical assistance and financial incentives for farmers.

"As a first step towards swifter action," Hamerschlag said, key state agencies "should establish an inter-agency working group on agriculture and climate change. Federal agencies, NGOs and farm groups all have critical roles to play and should also be actively involved."

Go here for the full report:


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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. EWG’s farm subsidy database and related reports and analysis can be found at

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