Land that produces food and farm products also provides crucial conservation and climate benefits, and federal conservation programs must focus on keeping working lands working, according to California Farm Bureau testimony before a congressional subcommittee last week.

California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson testified virtually before the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry.

Johansson said the California Farm Bureau supports participation by farmers, ranchers and foresters in voluntary, climate-smart practices that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience.

“Our farmers and ranchers have a proven track record of doing more with less,” he said, noting farmer investments in water recharge, irrigation efficiency, energy conservation, cleaner-running farm equipment and numerous other on-farm conservation practices.

“With so much already happening at the field level, it is important to consider how new federal policies and programs will overlay with existing state climate programs and grower-led initiatives,” Johansson added.

To achieve the best results, federal conservation programs must retain and enhance their flexibility to incorporate all crop types and farm sizes, he said.

Practices encouraged by the programs must be “broad and outcome-based, emphasizing a list of options as opposed to a prescriptive checklist,” Johansson explained.

Noting that he and his family have been forced to evacuate due to wildfires on three separate occasions, Johansson urged the subcommittee to include forestry and grazing practices as strategies to restore forest and rangeland health, and to ensure sufficient disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers.

In encouraging long-term adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices, financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers must be “consistent, sustainable and long term,” he said.

“To further the adoption of on-farm climate-smart practices, we must not only compensate early adopters but also consider the economics of the farm and assist those being expected to do more,” Johansson concluded. “Only in working together can we achieve solutions that make agriculture more climate resilient while remaining viable.”

The California Farm Bureau works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 32,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of nearly 5.6 million Farm Bureau members.

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