By: Ryan Oswald, Staff Reporter, The Pawprint
Late last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a heaping amount of bills to tackle the climate crisis.
The $15 billion package allocates for $1.5 billion in damages due to the raging wildfires, and more than $5 billion for drought and water resilience. The grand total also includes a record breaking $1 billion “climate smart” agriculture, intended to boost climate resilience and help farmers transition to practices that are more adaptive to climate change.
The investment in sustainable farming follows months of efforts by a coalition of nonprofit and public interest groups led by Jeane Merrill.
With an unrested passion for social justice and grassroots organizing, Merrill has long advocated for investments related to the resilience of California’s food and farming systems.
She coordinates the policy committee of the AB 125 Coalition, a diverse group of public organizations working to place a bond on the 2022 ballot that would invest $3 billion over 5 years to aid the states economic recovery from the corona virus pandemic, climate change, improve food security for vulnerable communities and protect farm workers.
Inside Climate News has conducted an interview with Jeane Merrill, asking a series of questions about the state’s groundbreaking investments in sustainable agriculture and what it can accomplish, and what still needs to be done.
When asked, Merrill states that she believes that the pandemic has influenced the large investment. She says that the pandemic has revealed the vulnerabilities of the food and agriculture system in California. “Climate smart agriculture is a huge win for a coalition of groups that have been working to advance these solutions for a number of years now.”
Merrill was asked what more she thinks can be done for California’s farms and how to make them more sustainable. As the dry season brings more unbearable heat and forest fires, she finds that reducing greenhouse gases and increasing carbon sinks on agriculture could be beneficial to farmland.
”When you increase soil organic matter, you also increase the water holding capacity of soil. And that matters, because in times of drought… your soil is better able to hold on to that water. And when we have times of flood, which is also anticipated in California—that we may go back and forth between precipitation extremes—greater water holding capacity in soils also provides resilience and tolerance to flood.”
Merrill ends the interview by saying that California is on the right track by investing in sustainable agriculture. “It’s a matter of continuing to make them accessible, scaling them up, streamlining them and reaching the greatest number of farmers that we can.”