California wants everyone to grow regenerative
And there'll be policies and programs to fund it
If you are any kind of farmer in California, or if you are a brand that procures ingredients from California grown crops, you’re blowing it if you’re not in on the state’s regenerative agriculture public meetings. California wants to change farming by creating a regenerative standard, and hopes to move everyone to that standard.
Let’s back up: what is regenerative agriculture?
The term ‘regenerative agriculture’ has been defined as farming that is:
· improving soil health
· sequestering carbon
· increasing water tables
· improving wildlife habitat
· fostering biodiversity
But the term is also being used to encapsulate and satisfy all the concerned feelings consumers have with the food industry— things like fair labor, human health, social justice, etc., which is why legislators in California are proposing there be goals around these impacts as well as environmental goals.
The State of California started this initiative in October of 2022, when the CDFA (California State Board of Food & Agriculture) tapped the Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel (EAF SAP) – here’s who is on the panel – to come up with a definition of regenerative agriculture for California.
Over the past ~2 years, the panel said they reviewed literature, and talked to a diverse spectrum of farmers (California grows over 400 different crops on 1500 different soil types) to come up with is this framework:
Notice, “Leading to positive impacts on California’s environmental, social, human health, and economic goals, including climate goals”.
The first Public Meeting to hear comments on these goals was held on Dec 6th (recording and transcript here), and I was there. So were a bunch of agency people, organic people, and regenerative organic people. Where were you?
A good chunk of time was spent on whether regenerative should be tied to organic. As I’ve mentioned before,if the broader ag community does not get involved, the organic community will take this over and regenerative will be all about converting 30% of California ag to organic by 2030 (we are at ~6%).
The reason to participate no matter where on the farming/production side or buying side you sit is because the outcome of all of this will be state funded policies and incentive programs for food and ag. (The outcome is not a certification—so as not to compete with existing organic or regenerative organic certifications, they say).
There will be four more public meetings. The next one is Thursday, Jan 11th, and it’s virtual, so register here.
I’m not a farmer but I talk to a lot of farmers and here’s what I’d love for you all to comment on in the next meeting:
1. Research in the field (data) on carbon sequestration – has data been gathered, what has been shared, and can we create benchmarks for (any) crops?
2. Cover cropping – any experience (visual OK) on your land’s ability to take in and hold water (i.e. all the water that came down last spring?)
3. Market demand for crops that you grow or procure – are you able to assess demand and supply of regenerative versions?
4. What regulatory burdens are you most concerned about?
5. What food safety considerations for things like increasing wildlife and biodiversity would need to be addressed with authorities?
You get the idea. I’d love to hear conversation about pathways to tangible things that farmers are familiar with and have some line of sight to implementing so that the created standards actually make sense and can be followed by most farmers.
All my best,