California recently passed new environmental regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions amidst a cacophony of cries from impacted industries. Top energy, housing, manufacturing and other business experts predict severe consequences, with most crying foul.
Mary Nichols, a long time chairwoman of the California Air Resources board retorted that “individual industry sectors always overestimate the costs and underestimate the benefits”, as reported on Sunday in the LA Times. Environmentalists are quick to remind everyone that climate change poses an even greater risk.
CLIMATE CHANGE HITS AGRICULTURE
The new regulations stand to significantly hit the state’s agriculture sector, an industry already rocked by the drought and other consequences of changing weather patterns. Yet, some executives in the industry balk at the new regulations.
Executives interpret the government’s action as evidence that the governor and legislature doesn’t want agriculture industry in California. Maybe we just don’t want conventional agriculture.
MAYBE WE DON’T WANT CONVENTIONAL AGRICULTURE
Conventional agriculture contributes to pollution, loss of top soil, loss of biodiversity, water contamination, and significantly contributes to the release of greenhouse gases. In a word, conventional farming increases the likelihood that we wont be able to feed ourselves in the future.
In contrast, regenerative agriculture increases organic matter in the soil by sequestering carbon, improves soil ecology, and increases water flow. By honoring nature’s capacity to effectively recycle nutrients, regenerative agriculture produces just as much food. And in times of drought, organic and sustainable agriculture fares far better than conventional systems precisely because these farmers and ranchers build a more resilient ecosystem and specifically work to decrease their dependence on water stores.
APRICOT LANE FARMS SHOWS US THE WAY
I visited Apricot Lane Farms multiple times over the past few years, learning more with every visit. This farm, local and biodynamic, pulses with biodiversity. John and Molly Chester share their passion and insight with all of us in a series of fabulous videos seen on Super Soul Sunday TV.
One of my favorites, Reimagining ALF, tells a powerful story of regenerating land decimated from years of neglect. Over the years I’ve observed the engine of this farm come back to life, and I can’t help but think this is how agriculture fits in California. However, regenerative agriculture promises more than reclaiming wasted land.
A recent study by Richard Teague of University of Texas in Austin projects just how powerfully regenerative farming can impact climate change. By sequestering carbon in the soil where it belongs, regenerative agriculture has the capacity to reverse climate change. I’m thinking Apricot Lane Farms and many forward thinking farmers and ranchers in the state represent the future of agriculture in California.
A ROLE FOR EVERY CONSUMER
Today the average family spends less than 7% of after tax income on food consumed at home. Mid century, Americans spent up to 27% of their income on food. What changed?
Since the 1950’s government policies subsidize wheat, corn, and soy–all the crops that make for very cheap soda, candy, cookies, and other snack foods. Foods made from these crops compromise our health and indirectly increase cost of health care. We spend far less on food and far more on health care. Consumers change these dynamics when we purchase better food, voting with every dollar for a better food system.
FEEDING OURSELVES AND SAVING THE PLANET
While business interests complain about increased costs and difficulty meeting new regulations, consumers can lend their voice to the debate. Eating better means buying better food. Yes, that will cost more. However consumers already know that poor health costs even more, and compromising our ability to grow food in the future for short term costs savings is a fool’s game.
Maybe we need to reconsider how much money we are willing to spend to feed ourselves. Paying more for groceries seems a rather modest sacrifice in order to save the planet.