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Daily News Blog

08
Nov

States Need to Adopt a Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy

(Beyond Pesticides, November 8, 2021) California state agencies, led by the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), released a draft Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy to guide and accelerate near- and long-term climate action across key California landscapes. All states need such strategies, and to be effective, they must be backed by ambitious targets focused on reduction of pesticides and support for organic agriculture.

Tell your state legislators and governor to adopt a Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy that supports organic agriculture and land management. (CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS: Please use this form.)

A Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy will identify our natural and working lands as a critical yet currently underutilized sector in the fight against climate change. These lands can sequester and store carbon emissions, limit future carbon emissions into the atmosphere, protect people and nature from the impacts of climate change, and build resilience to future climate risks. Climate smart management of our natural and working lands also improves public health and safety, secures our food and water supplies, and increases equity.

The strategy should define the state’s natural and working landscapes; describe how these lands can deliver on climate change goals; highlight priority nature-based climate solutions to address the climate crisis; explore opportunities for regional climate smart land management; identify options to track nature-based climate action and measure progress; and outline opportunities to scale climate smart land management across regions and sectors in the state. 

To be effective, the strategy must include ambitious targets focused on reduction of agricultural chemicals and support for organic agriculture. These measures also address other crises, including microbial support for ecosystem health and biodiversity.

Tell your state legislators and governor to adopt a Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy that supports organic agriculture and land management. (CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS: Please use this form.)

Letter to State Legislators and Governor (all states except California)

California state agencies, led by the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), released a draft Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy (see https://resources.ca.gov/Initiatives/Expanding-Nature-Based-Solutions) to guide and accelerate near- and long-term climate action across key California landscapes. Our state also needs such a strategy, and to be effective, it must be backed by ambitious targets focused on reduction of pesticides and support for organic agriculture, and we urge that a similar effort be launched in our state immediately to meet the existential climate crisis.

A natural and working lands climate smart strategy will identify our natural and working lands as a critical yet currently underutilized sector in the fight against climate change. These lands can sequester and store carbon emissions, limit future carbon emissions into the atmosphere, protect people and nature from the impacts of climate change, and build resilience to future climate risks. Climate smart management of our natural and working lands also improves public health and safety, secures our food and water supplies, and increases equity.

The strategy should define the state’s natural and working landscapes; describe how these lands can deliver on climate change goals; highlight priority nature-based climate solutions to address the climate crisis; explore opportunities for regional climate smart land management; identify options to track nature-based climate action and measure progress; and outline opportunities to scale climate smart land management across regions and sectors in the state. 

To be effective, the strategy must include ambitious targets focused on reduction of agricultural chemicals and support for organic agriculture. These measures will also address other crises, including microbial support for ecosystem health and biodiversity.

In addition to the proposed steps in the draft California strategy, we urge the following:

– Include ambitious pesticide reduction targets to 1) reduce the use of synthetic pesticides by 50% by 2030 and 2) reduce the use of hazardous pesticides by 75% by 2030, starting with organophosphates, fumigants, paraquat, and neonicotinoids.

– Explicitly support organic land management as a climate resilience and mitigation strategy. Incentives should include comprehensive support for organic transition beyond “plans development.” Such support should include direct financial incentives and more technical assistance providers with a specialization in organic and agroecology – with priority to serving socially disadvantaged farmers. Adopt a statewide target of transitioning 30 percent of California’s agricultural acreage to organic by 2030.

 – Include specific strategies that protect farmworker health and safety in the context of chemical pesticide use, extreme heat and air quality risk from wildfires as a result of climate change (for example, a climate emergency relief fund for undocumented workers, and support for community-based organizations to build climate resilience in farmworker communities.) CNRA staff should also ensure that processes for public input on climate-related strategies are inclusive of farmworkers and other Latinx agricultural communities with Spanish accommodations for all feedback mechanisms.

Please support the development of a natural and working lands climate smart strategy for our state that highlights reduction of agricultural chemicals and support for organic agriculture as an critical part of addressing the climate crisis.

Thank you.

(for California): Letter to California Natural Resources Agency ([email protected]):

I strongly support the inclusion of safer pest management and support for organic agriculture and land management, in the Draft Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy and Draft California Climate Adaptation Strategy (see https://resources.ca.gov/Initiatives/Expanding-Nature-Based-Solutions). California’s ability to adapt to and mitigate climate change strongly depends on strategies that eliminate synthetic agricultural chemical use and support impacted communities. 

The draft Strategies do not go far enough in setting ambitious targets to transition our agricultural systems away from toxic pesticides and towards safer and more climate-friendly organic agriculture. We urgently need a paradigm shift towards diversified organic farming in order to promote public and soil health and the livelihoods of farmers and farmworkers. 

Research shows climate change will most likely result in increased synthetic pesticide use due to decreased efficacy of pesticides and increased pest pressure. These findings are highly concerning, given pesticides are already applied on cropland in California at a rate 4.5 times higher than the national average. Many synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are a source of greenhouse gas emissions, while organic agriculture has been shown to significantly increase carbon sequestration in soils in multiple field trials in California.

Communities that would bear the brunt of an increase in pesticide use, such as farmworkers, are also those most likely to experience compounded health risks from climate change, such as exposure to extreme heat and poor air quality from wildfire smoke. Farmworkers are also land stewards, directly involved in growing and harvesting food. They therefore must be considered an integral part of the transition to safer, more sustainable and agroecological farming. 

We strongly support the “Opportunities to Scale Action” section in the Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy that emphasizes farmworker land management support, training, and apprenticeships, and urge CRNA to continue fleshing out specifically how such programs can be implemented and shaped by farmworker priorities and engagement. However, both Strategies could do more to help agricultural communities and address how they will be affected by climate change by addressing farmworkers specifically in the strategy. 

We recommend the following amendments to the Draft Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy and Draft California Climate Adaptation Strategy to ensure they are inclusive of impacted communities and accelerate California’s transition away from toxic pesticides:

– Include ambitious pesticide reduction targets to 1) reduce the use of synthetic pesticides by 50% by 2030 and 2) reduce the use of hazardous pesticides by 75% by 2030, starting with organophosphates, fumigants, paraquat, and neonicotinoids.

– Explicitly support organic land management as a climate resilience and mitigation strategy. Incentives should include comprehensive support for organic transition beyond “plans development.” Such support should include direct financial incentives and more technical assistance providers with a specialization in organic and agroecology – with priority to serving socially disadvantaged farmers. Adopt a statewide target of transitioning 30 percent of California’s agricultural acreage to organic by 2030.

 – Include specific strategies that protect farmworker health and safety in the context of chemical pesticide use, extreme heat and air quality risk from wildfires as a result of climate change (for example, a climate emergency relief fund for undocumented workers, and support for community-based organizations to build climate resilience in farmworker communities.) CNRA staff should also ensure that processes for public input on climate-related strategies are inclusive of farmworkers and other Latinx agricultural communities with Spanish accommodations for all feedback mechanisms.

Please include a reduction of agricultural chemicals and support for organic agriculture as an critical part of addressing the climate crisis. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

 

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