Loss of California Farmland Threatens Climate

California farmers don’t need a lecture on climate change – for several years they have confronted the challenges of growing their crops during droughts, wildfires and unpredictable temperature changes.

Perhaps no other industry or group of people has more of an incentive to combat climate change than farmers.

A top priority for meeting California’s climate change goals should be the preservation and conservation of our farmland, which plays a major role in carbon capture from the atmosphere. This in turn reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

To appreciate the environmental value of California farmland, it is instructive to put the totality of California farmland into perspective. We’re talking about enough land to blanket the entire state of West Virginia. In fact, if California farmland were an entire state, it would be bigger than Maryland, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

California farmland represents a quarter of California’s working and natural open spaces, which are instrumental in sequestering carbon from the air. These farms are operated by family farmers who have a personal relationship with the environment 365 days a year.

California farms are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Like a melting glacier, California is losing 50,000 acres of farmland every year. That translates to just over 78 square miles. To illustrate the magnitude of this, the loss of California farmland is equivalent to losing the following:

  • 12 Yosemite Valleys
  • 1.5 San Franciscos
  • 4 Malibus
  • 4 Napa Valleys

Beyond the economic ramifications of this trend are the environmental repercussions. It is a simple equation: loss of farmland = accelerated climate change.

The State of California gets this.

 “If we are to depend on agricultural lands for food and fiber benefits as well as carbon sequestration and storage, it is important that farming and ranching remain robust and that rates of conversion (to urbanization and other uses) diminish,” according to the draft California 2030 Natural + Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan.

In coming posts, we will be taking a look at how to protect and preserve farmland as well as innovations farmers are employing to boost their ability to fight climate changes. But the message is clear. We need to protect farmland as if they were the polar icecaps.

Climate Change Blog


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