Governor pushes for more farm aid to deal with climate change

Russel A. Daniels/Associated Press Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks about climate change during a news conference unveiling a new Google interactive tool in San Francisco, Wednesday, Dec. 2. The state is partnering with Google on the new venture. Google CEO Eric Schmidt says the feature, called CalAdapt, will let Internet users see the effects of climate change in California.

Governor lays out need for policy on water, pests, land use

By WES SANDER

Capital Press

With a new document for guiding state policy on climate change adaptation, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is pushing California toward more aid for farmers.

Schwarzenegger released his Climate Adaptation Strategy, a plan intended to guide lawmakers and agencies, on Wednesday, Dec. 2. Schwarzenegger also created a climate advisory panel, which will make recommendations by July 2010 on how to cope with rising seas, greater water scarcity and increasing wildfires.

Agriculture is represented on the 23-member council by Cynthia Cory, director of environmental affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation.

The document prescribes agriculture policy in four categories: water, pests and invasive species, land use and biodiversity.

It calls for the state to:

* Expand the California Irrigation Management Information System.

* Work with federal agencies to expand cost-share programs for new field equipment and growing techniques to help save water.

* Encourage water transfers and water-pricing systems that reward conservation, while improving conveyance to support transfers and storage.

* Encourage agriculture to use more recycled urban water.

* Support development of breeds, varieties and production techniques that allow producers to better cope with disease pressure.

* Support conservation of native and non-native pollinators.

* Encourage development of local food systems, or "foodsheds," thereby encouraging the conservation of farmland that adjoins urban areas.

* Investigate ways of sequestering carbon to create carbon-offset credits; meanwhile, work toward combining environmental credits with carbon credits so producers could see greater rewards for practices that increase biodiversity while streamlining the permitting process for farmers' conservation projects.

The document states California's water supply will shrink over the next century under even the most conservative estimates, while higher temperatures increase evaporation and water demands grow.

Agriculture in California could benefit from the longer growing seasons and greater carbon dioxide expected with a warming climate, the document states. But reduction of winter chill hours could impact crops like fruits, nuts and winegrapes, which require a cold-weather dormant period.

Rising temperatures will increase pest pressures, with invasive species migrating northward and diseases intensifying as winters shorten, the strategy states.

Behavior patterns of pollinator species will also change, affecting crop-production practices. Greater conflicts between agriculture and wildlife are expected, as both compete for water, while increased pest-control activities could impact habitat, the strategy states.

Local zoning plans should preserve land for the future possibility of farmland migrating northward and toward higher elevations, the strategy states.

Online

Read the full strategy at www.climatechange.ca.gov

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