Podcast Episode 1.94

What is the future of agriculture in California?

On March 30, 2023, in partnership with the Livermore Lab Foundation and The Maddy Institute, Climate Now hosted a one day summit in Fresno, CA, examining the intersection of climate change and agriculture. Agriculture is both a leading driver of greenhouse gas emissions (contributing nearly one fifth of all global emissions) and a potential solution to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Fresno, located in the heart of California’s Central Valley, also illuminates the other side of the agriculture-climate change coin: one of the nation’s most valuable agricultural regions, producing over a quarter of the nation’s food, is threatened by extreme droughts – and this year, extreme floods – brought on by climate change.

At Climate Now’s one day summit, farmers, business owners, scientists, policymakers, educators and activists gathered to discuss how to prepare for the changing climate in California and other agriculture producing regions, the challenges inherent to adaptation, and the opportunities that could come with adopting climate friendly technologies and practices.

For this week’s episode, join us for the key takeaways from this event.

Hosted By:

James Lawler
Climate Now Host


James Lawler

Climate Now Host
James Lawler is the founder of Climate Now. James started Climate Now as a way to learn about climate change and our energy system. Climate Now’s mission is to distill and communicate the science of our changing climate, the technologies that could help us avoid a climate crisis, and the economic and policy pathways to achieve net zero emissions globally. James is also the founder of Osmosis Films, a creative studio.


1:20 – This Week in Climate News

7:48 – Secretary Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture

20:32 – Farming panel with Louie Brown (KSC), Daniel Hartwig (Woolf Farming), and Hector Lujan (Reiter Affiliated)

27:42 – Agriculture Policy with Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, Bill Smittcamp (Wawona Frozen Foods), Sarah Woolf (Clark Bros Farming), Dennis Parnagian (Fowler Packing), Joe Del Bosque (Del Bosque Farms).


James Lawler: [00:00:00] Welcome to Climate Now, a podcast that explores and explains the ideas, technologies, and the on-the-ground solutions that we’ll need to address the global climate crisis and achieve a net-zero future. I’m James Lawler, and if you like this episode, leave us a review, share it with your friends, or tell us what you think at contact@climatenow.com.

This episode is made possible by the support of Wawona Frozen Foods. From orchard to table, Wawona Frozen Foods produces many of America’s favorite fruits, including fresh, frozen peaches, strawberries, pears, plums, and mixed fruit blends. You can learn more at wawona.com. This episode was also made possible by Reiter Affiliated Companies, Terranova Ranch and Kahn, Soares and Conway, LLP.

On March 30th, Climate Now, with the support of the Maddy Institute and the Livermore Lab Foundation, held a summit about the intersection of agriculture and climate. The summit attracted over 700 registrants and [00:01:00] took place in Fresno, California, one of the top agricultural producing counties in the nation, and focused on the climate challenges and opportunities California agriculture faces today. 

Today’s episode will share the highlights from that summit. But first, our news segment: This Week in Climate News, in which I’m joined by the one and only Dina Cappiello of RMI. So there are two that I have read more carefully.

One is the Tulare Lake story in the New York Times about this 30-square-mile dry lake bed in the Central Valley in California that has essentially refilled with water and is causing many, many billions of dollars of damage to orchards and to homes that are located in this lake bed, and that damage is expected to dramatically increase as the snows in the Sierra Mountains start to melt. [00:02:00] And so this is actually a topic that was of great interest at the agriculture summit that Climate Now produced last week in Fresno, California.

And we had uh, panels of farmers with land holdings and agricultural production in this area that’s affected. And it’s absolutely devastating because you’re talking about, you know, many, many, many millions of dollars of orchards that are underwater. And once they’re under a- you know, a foot of water, basically the- you know, those trees are dead.

They can’t withstand that- 

Dina Cappiello: Mm-hmm. 

James Lawler: That additional water. So-

Dina Cappiello: I mean, this is like, you’re talking about, you know, displacement. So several communities have been evacuated. I mean, do we know where they went? Dairy cattle have been hustled to higher ground. And a poultry facility-

James Lawler: Sounds like a Pixar movie. 

Dina Cappiello: Right? Is surrounded by water and is weighing whether to move or slaughter a million chickens. And that’s not even, this is like pre-melt. So do they have any sense of [00:03:00] how big this body- this flood’s gonna be and how much bigger this, this, this lake is gonna be? 

James Lawler: Yeah, it’s estimated that a million acre-feet of water are- you know, is expected to descend.

And so this is a million acres, you know, at a foot depth of water, essentially. So it just, the scale is, is absolutely, you know, massive. 

Dina Cappiello: Wow, so, you know, in other news related to how climate literally affects our lives from what we eat based on what is grown in California, that could be underwater, to America’s favorite pastime, which is baseball.

A story, literally just on Friday, um, April 7th, uh, hit, hit everywhere ’cause we know baseball is popular; more, more popular than climate change, that talks about the link between climate change and home runs. And before you kind of say to yourself “no way, that [00:04:00] can’t be true”, this is actually a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society that talks about how higher temperatures caused by climate change have reduced air density and therefore are making it likelier, uh, that balls, um, fly farther.

James Lawler: Thanks, Dina. That’s a good one. So there’s a fascinating article about the state of the energy transition in Australia that Bloomberg published, this is by James, uh, Fernyhough on April 4th. So, South Australia’s last coal-fired power plant closed, and it, it left that province. 

And Elon Musk tweeted that he had a solution, he’d build the world’s largest battery, and, and he was challenged by an Australian software magnet who asked him how serious he was, could he guarantee a hundred [00:05:00] megawatts and delivery in a hundred days? And Musk responded that he would get the system installed and working in a hundred days after the contract signature, or it’s free. And they took him up on it and Tesla delivered. 

So they actually succeeded and they installed that battery, lithium-ion battery, and essentially, that battery provides as much power as a coal turbine and can turn on at the drop of a hat. So it’s a- it’s a huge amount of power that is- that replaced that firm generation capacity in South Australia in a hundred days. 

Dina Cappiello: What’s interesting about this is, is this article and, and, and we- and we’re gonna talk about- more about Musk in a minute, but this article talks about the tipping point within the country of Australia. 

And there was actually another news story this week, [00:06:00] um, that came out about three to five days ago that talks about, you know, Australia has historically been a huge coal exporter. Um, but there was actually new data coming out from the government that by 2028, um, exports of lithium and other critical minium- minerals and mostly lithium will actually equal the export value of thermal coal. 

So another tipping point, right? And we’re seeing these all across the world. Just interesting for, like, a variety of reasons. 

And I’m not sure, James, if you wanna talk about the other news that, um, Elon Musk, he really does do a great job generating news, but, um, Tesla came out with a white paper, uh, this week that got some attention in the press that basically said, I mean the, the- this most simplistic headline is that yes, it’s gonna take a lot of money to do this transition. 10 [00:07:00] trillion right? To convert the world to clean energy- to clean energy fully, but it would take 14 trillion over the next 20 years if we continued to rely on fossil fuels .

So when I look at this as, as I’m speaking for RMI now, you know, this is something we’ve seen across the world, which is, which is that we- that renewable energy is, is, is becoming cheaper. It’s becoming cost competitive with older fossil fuel forms of energy. A 4 trillion saving is, is very significant when you’re talking about numbers that big.

James Lawler: Today we’re going to hear from farmers and ranchers and those working in the California agriculture industry about the challenges and opportunities presented by the changing climate. These excerpts were recorded live in Fresno, California at the Future of Agriculture Summit. For more information about the summit or other [00:08:00] upcoming events, you can visit climatenow.com/events.

You can also watch the whole summit, the full recording, via that link. To set the stage on the state of climate and agriculture in California today, here’s our keynote speaker, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross

Karen Ross: It’s ironic that we’re sitting here having gone through a historic drought and now we’re probably looking at historic flooding. But I guess that is the story of California, isn’t it? 

What has made California agriculture so very successful, and the envy of many in the world, and it is innovation. But innovation doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of people to help spur innovation and to make sure that we have the tools available to us to be able to adapt them to our own particular circumstances.

So, uh, thinking about the future of agriculture is so intimidating. I’m gonna start with just level-setting. Where are we today? Because it is very remarkable. [00:09:00] Our most recent numbers are for 2021, which was in the heart of the drought. And, just like in 2014 when I had to explain to Governor Brown how we broke our gross revenue picture in the midst of a worse drought, we broke a new record of $51.1 billion in revenues in 2021.

That seems remarkable because we were in the midst of a pandemic. We know how disrupted our markets were at that time. We know how disrupted getting exports out was at that time. We know all the additional things that we were doing. Of course, we always caution that that is just the gross revenue of the first transaction off the farm into the stream of commerce.

It has no accounting whatsoever to what the commensurate cost increases were and what the net profits were. But it does show the power of what we do in California, which is increasingly more with less. [00:10:00] When we think about this date and what has made us great, it is natural resources, the farmland that we have, the fact that we sit here in the Central Valley where all eight counties are, are in the top 10 producing counties of the country, and many of these counties, almost all of them produce more than the ag revenues of many, many countries in the world.

They do that because people don’t give up. And yet, there sometimes feels like a breaking point. Most people do not know that 70% of California farms have less than 100 acres. It’s because of the specialty crops, the high value crops that we grow, that we can actually, on small farms still (and we wanna keep it this way), still generate an income for a family to make their living and to have an enjoyable [00:11:00] quality of life.

But we also know that in the process of the things that we’ve done, we’ve learned a lot about what some of our impacts are. And as we think about climate change, we have to think about how we in the farming community can lead with solutions.

I know that to my bone. Partly because it’s only in agriculture and in forestry what we grow, photosynthesis, the ability to draw down carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the ground and hold it there to give us that built-up soil organic matter to be a part of the climate solution with carbon sequestration.

That carbon sequestration also increases our water-holding capacity. It gives us resiliency, it improves our nutrient cycling so that it can over time decrease our dependence on synthetic fertilizers. We can lead [00:12:00] on climate, and I believe that we are doing it now with the kinds of programs we have in California.

We have spent, over the last decade, through the Greenhouse Gas (emission) Reduction Fund because we believe in the future of agriculture, almost a billion dollars in greenhouse gas emission funding as incentive grants to farmers and ranchers and ag processors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help us address, adapt to, and mitigate climate change.

We’ve invested over $200 million for on-farm water use efficiency. Most people look at how much water it takes to grow food for people and for livestock. I look at how much we continue to improve our water conservation on farms. In the last two decades, we are a- an agriculture applying 14% less water. And our productivity has increased by 38% [00:13:00] because we’re using it so precisely.

Every drop, right time, right place. Oh, that’s the fertilizer part. But that’s, that’s the part about improving our irrigation practices is that we’re mitigating the movement of nitrates be- below our, our root zones. So when you look at these kinds of practices, they make a good, strong business case. They make a strong environmental case, but they make a good business case if we can improve the use of these resources, we’re spending less on them. 

Since 2014 and the passage of SB 1383, only in California do we have a mandate to reduce methane emissions. Our dairy families in California are leading the way, over $383 million for dairy digesters and alternative manure management practices.

When we think about these manure products, doing the separation of the water from the solids, they both [00:14:00] have value and we’re really doing a lot of innovative work. And it was right here on this campus, partnering with Netafim and Sustainable Conservation and dairy farmers, that we really looked at how can we use that as irrigation water on the farm in drip irrigation for corn and forage for dairies, reduce the amount of water used, use a, a water product that already had nutrients in it, reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers, they realized better and more consistent gains in their crop yields by doing that. 

Our continued work on climate change with the update of our scoping plan that was adopted in- at the end of 2022 has, for the first time, goals of working with our land managers, our land stewards, our farmers, our ranchers, our natural working lands.

On crop and range land, we have a goal of adding 80,000 acres a year with healthy soils practices, [00:15:00] 40,000 acres per year utilizing compost because we wanna get that organic waste stream out of the landfills and convert it to a value stream, which would be a replacement for synthetic fertilizer. Compost, cover crops, we’ve seen huge growth in that.

We have a goal of trying to achieve 19,000 acres a year additional in cover cropping. Those cover crops can help us hold onto our soils, prevent erosion, improve air quality, improve nutrient cycling, and hold soil organic matter carbon in our soils for improve- improved product. And 19,000 acres a year in additional no-till.

So that’s what we’re trying to do through the scoping plan. We have really held up all that’s possible by working and partnering with farmers and ranchers. It’s no longer, as often, sitting at a table with [00:16:00] environmental groups and farmers fighting each other. More and more, it’s about partnership. The realization that the vast majority of land in this state is held in the private hands of farmers and ranchers who love this land, who think every day about their legacy, about the next generation and the one after that.

These are exactly the people that if we work with you, we can get faster and more superior results than just relying on a regulatory process. Water will be, in my opinion, when you look at the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the need to feed an increasing population with less available arable land, water availability ,and water quality, I think will be the biggest challenge to food production.

So paying attention to our water in California, with the fact that we have [00:17:00] 69,000 farms, thank you- 69,000 farms, 70% are under a hundred acres. We have every- we are a living laboratory from the smallest farmer selling direct at a farmer’s market to the largest farmer who’s exporting around the world. With our scientific capacity and intellectual capacity coming from campuses like CSU Fresno with the young people that they’re putting into careers in agriculture, with that energy and intellect, we can figure this out.

The technology is advancing so fast. I’ve already mentioned how much less applied water we’re using. We know we can continue to do that with new technology. As a state, we have updated our Water Action Plan and in August of last year, we released Hotter, Drier Future. How do we continue to be productive in food, productive in our economy, and in our quality of life, which includes environmental stewardship when we know based on the last few years that higher temperatures and [00:18:00] evapotranspiration mean less available water for human use and for ecosystems? 

In fact, that paper estimates that over the next two decades, we will have 10% less available water simply because of higher temperatures, drier soils. Evapotranspiration is something we have to deal with. So the strategy for supply is finish the projects that have been approved for funding through the water commission process of Prop 1.

Those are sites and six other projects above-ground/below-ground storage that would add over 4 million acre-feet, in total, of supply in those years that we have like this with atmospheric rivers to fill those reservoirs. It’s taking a look at water recycling, especially in our cities that have a ratepayer base.

It’s an expensive technology, but it’s new water. It’s reusing every molecule. The goal for that is to add 800,000 acre-feet a [00:19:00] year of recycled water. Taking examples from Orange County, as a great example in this state of what is possible by doing water recycling and turning it into drinking water, irrigation water, and water for other uses.

It’s taking a look at what our good friend and neighbor, Don Cameron was a pioneer in doing with on-farm water recharge. It’s called, it’s called managed aquifer recharge. There are a number of projects around the state. We, we estimate that, modestly, we could do recharge on-farm and in managed aquifers for at least 500,000 acre-feet a year.

Water conservation is a way of life. We know that’s part of our future, which means everything that we do is to use every drop as carefully as we possibly can. It is to better understand that the kind of abnormal year we have now may be the new normal years. We won’t get years like this with atmospheric rivers coming so frequently, [00:20:00] which will be a relief for everyone who’s sitting in a floodplain.

But these, these are the things that we must do to adapt, and Californians have that spirit of doing that. We have the capacity to do that. We have the scientific knowledge to do that. We have the will to do that, and we want to have even more partners to be able to do that. The future’s here. Thank you.

James Lawler: And now for a look at challenges farmers face in implementing sustainable practices. Here’s Louie Brown, a partner at the law firm Kahn, Soares and Conway, a firm focused on agriculture and natural resource management, which was also a sponsor of the summit. 

Louie is speaking with Daniel Hartwig, who is the director of sustainability at Woolf Farming and is a small-scale farmer himself, as well as Hector Lujan, who is the president and CEO of Reiter Affiliated, which is the largest multi-berry producer in the [00:21:00] world and is an exclusive producer for Driscoll Berries.

Louie Brown: Daniel, I wanna start with you because you, you actually have sustainability in your title. 

Daniel Hartwig: Yeah. 

Louie Brown: Um, and I think, especially in Sacramento, uh, among policy makers, that probably surprises a lot of people because, uh, all we hear about is the importance of sustainable agriculture. Um, but I think it’s something you probably do every day.

Daniel Hartwig: Yeah. I mean the, the great thing about Woolf Farming is, I mean, it’s a family-owned company, right? I, I think, you know, the misnomer of, of agriculture and, and everybody likes to throw around the concept of “big ag” and, you know, “corporate ag”, uh, I mean, I farm 20 acres and I’m a, I’m a corporation, right? I- my, my brother and I incorporated for, you know, because it makes sense for our business.

Uh, Woolf Farming, you know, cares about the soil and, and they really want to, they’re looking at it from a generational standpoint. So when you talk about sustainability, it’s, it’s making sure the business is, is there for that next generation, and then making sure we’re leaving the soil in better condition, [00:22:00] right?

So we take a lot of, you know, we do a lot of practices to make sure that we’re leaving that soil in the best possible condition for that next generation of farming. 

Louie Brown: And Hector, when we were talking, kind of preparing for this panel discussion, um, you connected profitability with sustainability. 

Hector Lujan: Well, yes. Um, I think in- when you look at producing and, and looking at what we do is sustainability comes with efficiency more than just profitability is what drives, really the- driving the markup is efficiency and productivity and, in order to be, you know, uh, moving the mark in our business, um, you know, that comes with profitability as well. But it, it gives us the opportunity to reinvest in our fields, reinvest in the infrastructure that’s needed. And as we look at, um, sustainability- and, and we’re used to, you know, more of an annual crops or multi-annual [00:23:00] crops, uh, our investments weren’t that long-term.

As we’re looking now at sustainability, you’re looking at very long-term investments that now have to get figured into the equation of our farming operations. And, and that’s a new thing for us. And, and, um, and that takes capital and a little bit of, uh, innovation as well. 

Louie Brown: Well, that’s, that’s fascinating because, um, the, the element of capital I think is, is, uh, absolutely important in these discussions. Um, and we’ve had this discussion, uh, quite a bit, um, if- within Sacramento, among policymakers who just don’t understand how capital-intensive, uh, agriculture is, and especially as we work on regulations that either, um, move towards the changing of equipment, um, changing of practices.

So Daniel, can you talk about that just a little bit? 

Daniel Hartwig: Yeah, so I mean, in some of the [00:24:00] programs there and, and you know, NRCS and some of these programs, gosh, I think they’ve done, you know, over 10,000 tractors, you know, here in the, in the last few years with some of these programs that are available. 

Uh, you know, at the same time I mean that, that’s, those are tremendous numbers and that’s doing a great job of helping clean our air but, at the same time that, that’s covering about 30 to 35% of the cost of a new, you know, new tractor. Uh, you’re talking about still having to come up with, you know, maybe as a small farmer, uh, maybe $60,000, $70,000, you know, that, I mean, that’s, that’s a couple years’ worth of profits for us, uh, as a small farmer.

Uh, and on a larger scale, I mean, if we’re, if we’re replacing, you know, multiple pieces of equipment, uh, it’s, it’s still a really, really large chunk of, you know, what you’re doing here and, and trying to make that, you know, that turnover. 

If- even if you’re looking at, in- investing you know, in, in, you know, cleaner equipment, I mean, that, that, that costs even more because now you’re talking about a new technology and there’s more and more money, uh, that you’re having to invest, uh, for, for a new technology rather than something that’s a, a mature technology. [00:25:00] 

Louie Brown: Hector? 

Hector Lujan: Yes, no, I, I think that, you know, you’re looking at investments that, you know, all of a sudden, um, you weren’t planning on. And, uh, you know, I just recently, we talked a little bit about our EV vehicles and trying to get into EV vehicles, and now you’re saying, oh, well there’s- now you’re looking at ranges, how, how much of the range can I get?

And so the, the price starts going up again. Um, I look at it, hopefully it’s like plasma TVs, right? That they started very expensive and now they’re very affordable. But then you look at the equipment to charge the EVs. And if we were gonna go into tractors in the future, well what is it gonna take, you know, what kind of facilities to charge?

Um, and so a lot of investment and, and capital into the future, um, needs to be worked into what we need to do and, um, and factor into that equation. And, and, you know, it, it, it- [00:26:00] when it’s too fast for us and for a lot of our small growers, it is very cost prohibitive at a time.

Um, as, as, um, Daniel mentioned, you just- new regulations, like when we had to update older vehicles, trucks that, um, due to the emissions, that was what- when you were looking at trucks that were being used and on farms just to move fruit around or different things.

That all of a sudden, even for a very small grower, um, was very cost- costly to reinvest a hundred percent into back into their business. So, um, we need to be able to look at that more and, and, and plan for that better into the future.

Daniel Hartwig: Can, can I piggyback on just so I mean, one of- and as Hector brought up here, I mean, you know, the, the EV technology that’s, that’s out there and especially the EV battery, you know, battery that’s out there. If, if I’m, if I have a, you know, tractor driver and I’m trying to work a double shift, or I’ve gotta get across a bunch of ground, I mean, right now it’s super wet outside, right?

I mean, you’re, you know, we’re, we’re struggling All we can just to try to get tomatoes in the ground and i, [00:27:00] and I think everybody, you know, up and down the, in the valley, you know, in Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley can, you know, can say the same thing. You’re trying to run a double shift. And now it’s like, well you’ve gotta, you know, you’ve gotta charge this thing for, you know, 10 or 12 hours, you know, just to try to get maybe six hours of use on it.

Uh, that- that’s just not practicable for, for a lot of the things we’re trying to do on a farm. So, I mean, there, there really needs to be a focus on developing either interim technologies until some of the battery technologies are, are there, uh, like maybe hydrogen or some of these other things that may be much, much lower emissions.

Uh, but we have to find solutions because right now, they, they just aren’t practical for, for farming. 

James Lawler: Finally, we wanted to share some highlights from Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval‘s conversation with four California producers about agricultural policy in California.

Here, Saúl is joined by Bill Smittcamp, who is president and CEO of Wawona Frozen Foods, a peach and strawberry processor based in the San Joaquin Valley [00:28:00] for 60 years, Sarah Woolf, president of Water Wise Consulting and partner in her family’s farming business, Clark Brothers Farming, Dennis Parnagian, who is chairman of Fowler Packing Company, a family operation that grows, packs, and markets mandarins, table grapes, almonds, and pistachios, and Joe Del Bosque, a melon farmer on the west side of Fresno and Merced Counties.

 Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval: I’ll give you just some, some, some brief, you know, highlights of, of what California agriculture represents. We produce more than 400 commodities. Uh, most of the food, vegetables, and nuts of the US are produced here. Effectively, within a hundred miles of Fresno, 25% of all the food of the US is produced. This is really how critical we are to, uh, food security in the US.

Uh, a hundred percent- we produce a hundred percent of commercial almonds in the US, a hundred percent of commercial almonds in North America, 80% of commercial almonds worldwide. Um, I’m not gonna highlight, you know, the other areas, [00:29:00] but I want to talk about dairy, grapes. 98% of the grapes in the US that are consumed are from California.

Um, cannabis, is an- you know, very up, up, upcoming, uh, industry as well. Strawberries, uh, very important. 98% of all the broccoli in the US is produced in California as well. And of course, peaches, 70% of the peaches of the US come from California, primarily from Bill’s farm. So, so I wanted to give you that one, Bill.

 Bill Smittcamp: We need more, too. 

 Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval: Exactly, exactly. So I want to talk about, within this context then, I want to talk about this, this notion that people have been using recently. Let’s say, you know, an almond. Prohibitive, right? For every almond you’ve, uh, uh, grown, we produce one gallon- we have to use one gallon. One gallon of water is, has to be, uh, used for- per every, per every almond.

We don’t ever talk about how much is [00:30:00] being used in terms of water, uh, in terms of laptops. Or in terms of tables or in terms of anything else that you can think of, right? When in reality, this is food that we need for the everyday. So, within that context then, the question deals with the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is this bill that is, uh, renewed every five years and it’s up for renew- renewal this year.

So the question for the panel, and I’m gonna start with you, Joe, on the other side, what do you and others in the ag sector want to see in the upcoming Farm Bill at the national level that is going to impact you on the local level so that we can keep producing that 25% of the food for the, for the nation.

Joe Del Bosque: Well first of all, you know, for a lot of you who are not familiar with the Farm Bill, and I’m certainly not an expert in the Farm Bill, but you need to know that 80% of the Farm Bill is about nutrition and only 20% of it is for agriculture. [00:31:00] Um, and in that 20%, really a small portion, uh, you might say is beneficial to California agriculture. 

The reason being is what, what, uh, Dr. Saúl said, uh, California produces fruits and vegetables and nuts, which are considered specialty crops, and most of the Farm Bill is kind of aimed at, you know, the grains and and so forth. So we in California that produce all these specialty crops. 

And, and I do want to say this, you know, I, I want to thank the doctor from Lawrence Livermore. We are in a very special place, this central valley, to be able to grow all these things. But being a, a specialty crop grower, you know, we need to have more government help in things like innovation to help us to be able to handle these special crops mechanically or, or whatever. We need to- you know, more help with [00:32:00] things like food safety.

We need to have more, more help with a more updated and modern set of, of crop insurance that covers more of these crops and also more of these, uh, disasters, right? Like flood, right? Things like that, that maybe we don’t have right now. So those are just some of the few things that I see that, that are beneficial for California agriculture.

 Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval: Thank you, Joe. Uh, Dennis, on to you please. 

Dennis Parnagian: Joe hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly right. We are not “big ag”. We think we are here, but we’re not. It’s corn, wheat, soybeans. It’s everything in the Midwest, not us. We’re specialty ag and we get short shrift in Washington. We don’t really amount to too much, but on the national level, as President Jiménez-Sandoval said, without us, our quality of life [00:33:00] wouldn’t be that good. 

 It just wouldn’t be, and the people in Washington would sorely miss it. If California wasn’t here, the world would miss us, terribly. So, we may only get 20% of the Farm Bill, but this goes beyond the Farm Bill. We need money. We need more water storage.

We need, need more conveyance systems. We need more, if not dams, we need more reservoir. We need Temperance Flats. Temperance Flats, they tell me can hold 1.3 million gallon, acre-feet of water, while Millerton Lake holds 500,000. Temperance Flats is a slam dunk. How come we’re not doing it? I mean, come on. This is, is- this is not rocket science.

This is- this should be a simple slam dunk kind of a deal. [00:34:00] And you get recreation with it and you get everything else. I mean, this valley is, is so unique. It’s so special and if we don’t take it seriously, we’re gonna lose it. And again, Joe brought up financing. 

You know, when I went to high school, uh, gosh, this valley was dotted with 20 and 40 acre farms. And you know, parents could, um, some of ’em had side jobs, but you could farm and you could live a kind of a middle-class life and buy a car maybe every seven years and put your children through school. Those days are gone, I mean, today it’s maybe 160 or 300 acres that you, you have to have to just survive.

It’s a different time. I, I, I, I’m sad to see that go.

 Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval: Yeah. Thank you, Dennis.

Dennis Parnagian: I’m getting off topic here. 

 Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval: No, no, you’re not actually, um, you know, I’m hearing from [00:35:00] you really powerful, uh, insights. This specialty ag brings joy to our lives. Um, I, I don’t know that I, I would be able to be happy with just corn, wheat and soybeans.

I, I want those berries and that wine, you know, onto you. Sarah, please, to Farm Bill. 

Sarah Woolf: Um, I don’t know that I can add a lot on the Farm Bill. I think the ones I would mention are very similar to what Joe brought up. 

We’re a unique growing region and so the Farm Bill, historically written for much, um, more basic crops than the specialty crops we grow. And so I think the insurance program is critically important to us here in California, especially with this changing climate and how you, how you adapt that insurance program to, to those needs are, are necessary as well. But I think Bill, probably with the school lunch program could say a lot more on the Farm Bill.

 Bill Smittcamp: Well, um, Farm Bill’s really, really important when it comes to research and dollars coming out [00:36:00] of that on the nutrition side. Um, we’re, we’re, Wawona’s producing over a hundred million, uh, fruit cups a year that goes to all the school lunch programs across the nation. Um, and that’s funded all out of this, out of, out of the Farm Bill.

But the, the, the thing about California and we’re, and we are the specialty crop king. Um, we need to make sure that we have the research that fits with the water and fits with the sustainability that y’all have been talking about and listening to today, uh, collectively, um, moving the ball forward rather than backwards.

Um, water’s key. Water, we use, I’m not even gonna tell you how much water we use during the summer on our processing line, but it’s all about food safety. [00:37:00] And the Farm Bill has, uh, again, not their focus on specialty crops. They’ve got ’em on the, on the commodity side.

So when we use so much water for food safety, because frozen fruit, I’ll give you a little note. Frozen fruit is ready to eat. Frozen vegetables are not. So those of you that go home and buy your frozen beans and put ’em in a, in a, in a summer salad and put ’em out, you should be blanching those one more time just for notice.

But we in the, in the, in the fruit program, we in the fruit program, the second that we process it, no heat’s touching that fruit. Whether it’s a strawberry from Ryder Farms or peaches from- Dennis used to grow peaches for us, but from one of our 60 or other 65 outside growers, it’s key that we have the highest standard of GMPs and sanitation in all of our facilities. 

Now, [00:38:00] if, if we don’t support what we’re doing here in the United States and we let the product come in from China or Greece, when it comes to peaches or even Chile, um, there’s, there’s, there’s a, a food security there, right?

So we need to make sure, and that’s in the Farm Bill, to make sure that we, uh, do the right things. Um, I was back there last June talking to him and one of our plights in the Farm Bill is all this money goes towards fresh produce. Fresh produce. Now, any of you can go down to the grocery store and try to buy a fresh peach and you won’t, you won’t find one.

You’ll find some fresh strawberries, you’ll find different things, but we advocate for all forms, frozen, canned, dried, and fresh. And so that’s really what we’re trying to do on our [00:39:00] side.

James Lawler: That’s it for this episode of the Climate Now Podcast. Again, if you’re interested and you’d like to see more of our summit, go to climatenow.com/events and navigate to past events and the Fresno Future of Agriculture Summit. Thanks again for listening and hope you’ll join us for our next conversation.

Climate Now is made possible in part by our science partners like the Livermore Lab Foundation. The Livermore Lab Foundation supports climate research and carbon cleanup initiatives for the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, which is a Department of Energy applied science and research facility. More information on the foundation’s climate work can be found at livermorelabfoundation.org.

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