Many Californians aren’t aware that the state, by law, is hurtling towards a major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s Executive Order B-30-15, codified into law this month, requires California to be 40 percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2030.
Ranchers and farmers aren’t in this alone, however. California has launched the Healthy Soil Initiative, a proactive approach to making sure that California — as the largest agricultural state in the nation — has fertile, sustainable soil for decades to come.
Five Primary Actions
The Healthy Soil Initiative has clearly laid out five main ways they intend to accomplish the lofty goal set by legislators.
Protect and restore soil organic matter in California’s soils.
Identify sustainable and integrated financing opportunities to facilitate healthy soils.
Provide for research, education and technical support to facilitate healthy soils.
Increase governmental efficiencies to enhance soil health on public and private lands.
Promote interagency coordination and collaboration to support soils and related state goals.
These are clear goals, with a budget and an agenda, that lay out actionable steps to achieve the daunting mandate for greenhouse gas reductions. As you can see, the first primary action is the most important and vital to the entire project. Without an abundance of sustainable organic matter to enrich California’s soil, the entire effort will be in vain; as the soil’s yield would not be robust or resilient enough to withstand climate change.
Building Soil Health
So, we’ve identified that increasing the health of California’s soils is a key part of making our farms and ranches ecologically sustainable. But how exactly do we go about building soil health, and how do we know it will work?
One of the ways that the Healthy Soil Initiative is thinking outside the box to solve this problem is through repurposing organic waste that would otherwise just sit in a landfill. Instead of letting organic waste go to… well, waste, we can implement a plan to return it to the soil and actually fertilize our lands.
Yes, that’s right. The plan calls for taking the right kinds of garbage, and essentially re-mixing it back into the soil to promote the existence of the all-important organic matter which gives soil its vitality.
Sequestering carbon (“greenhouse”) gases in various forests and farms within California is also a big part of the Healthy Soil Initiative’s strategy. If we can find a way to sustainably store carbon in the soil found on farm and ranch land, we might actually be able to come out ahead and improve yields while reducing agriculture-related greenhouse emissions.
The long-term benefits of ecologically sustainable decisions such as sequestration can’t be overstated. These actions will pay dividends in unexpected ways, including the promotion of biological diversity and the improvement of existing wildlife habitats. Fostering biodiversity and committing to choices such as water reduction will create a domino-like effect as time goes by, continually paying benefits like the continual growth of California’s soil and ecological health.