Valley Voices

Climate change is real to farmers in California

Don Cameron
Don Cameron Fresno Bee file/2010

Many farmers regard themselves as the original land stewards. For us, it is especially stressful to watch the planting and harvesting seasons change, for reasons out of our control. In 2015, drought and irregular weather brought my pistachio crop nearly to disaster.

It’s clear that for us to remain resilient in the face of uncertain new weather patterns, we need to invest in new systems that will alleviate drought, heat and severe storms. Already, California makes a suite of programs available to the state’s farmers through existing climate policies.

However, these programs designed to help us adapt and stay financially solvent may be at risk if Senate Bill 32, the climate initiative being considered by the Legislature, does not move forward this year.

I have seen how California’s climate policies support clean agricultural practices. Through the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, Terranova Ranch received matching funding to upgrade our irrigation systems. Since 2009, we have replaced 46 natural gas engines with electric ones, and old diesel ones with cleaner engines.

We have expanded our solar generating capacity to two megawatts and also have replaced 76 pieces of equipment – resulting in measurable pollutant emission reductions.

The benefits of our state’s climate policies in Fresno go well beyond just one industry. Environmental Entrepreneurs, a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, recently examined the economic benefits created by California’s climate policies, detailing how each Assembly district has benefited to show lawmakers exactly how policy has translated into tangible results for their constituents.

Assembly District 31, covering the Fresno area, and represented by Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, has received $162 million through renewable energy, energy efficiency and transportation programs. This has helped create more than 2,300 jobs and reduced emissions by the equivalent of more than 95,000 automobiles.

With SB 32, we must be certain that proportionate funding is delivered to the San Joaquin Valley where it is especially needed to provide healthy, clean air for our children’s and grandchildren’s future.

Climate policy benefits also extend to sustainable buildings, advanced energy businesses, clean energy schools and sustainable transportation, and reflect the growing importance of clean energy investments to San Joaquin Valley’s economy.

In 2006, when California legislators passed and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Global Warming Solutions Act, it set a new precedent for climate policy. It was a big commitment and a political risk for some, but one that has proven to pay off in a big way.

SB 32, which would extend California’s climate efforts by 10 years, is widely regarded as a critical next step in our state’s leadership to mitigate climate change. It would be a powerful driver of local economies across the state, creating jobs, growing efficiency savings for businesses, and leveling the playing field for renewable energy to compete fairly with polluting sources of energy. Most importantly, it would allow us to continue to upgrade and invest in our farms.

Building on the success of the clean energy markets that California has pioneered, SB 32 will help grow a strong economy and a healthy environment. Acting now will send a strong signal to businesses, investors, and the broader clean energy sector that investing in California’s transformative industries is the savviest thing to do. Holding back now will do the opposite, and create an atmosphere of uncertainty for potential investors.

The state must move forward by approving SB 32 if we are to continue our leadership in building a resilient agricultural community. Farms like mine simply cannot afford any delays in taking action on climate policy.

Don Cameron is vice president/general manager of Terranova Ranch Inc. in Fresno County, and serves at the Office of the Environmental Farming and Innovation at the California Department of Food and Agriculture.