Every five years, Congress passes a farm bill that affects a whole host of programs in rural America. While a great deal of the funding under the Farm Bill addresses the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, there are other critical programs for conservation, crop insurance and disaster recovery, and marketing assistance for overseas export of agricultural commodities. These programs give Americans healthy foods at a reasonable price and help 44 million people in the United States have food security, with an average of $126 per person of assistance each month under the SNAP program.
The Farm Bill also provides support to our land grant universities and funds research on agriculture, which in turn has made American agriculture the most efficient and productive in the world. The bill even supports rural residents in buying homes and implementation of renewable energy. Our 2018 Farm Bill is critical to residents of rural Northern California, and Congress must provide adequate funding under the bill to ensure that agriculture and rural communities get the support we need in our region. In 2018, that means our Farm Bill must also address climate change in every one of its programs, from crop insurance and disaster recovery to research and conservation.
A new study published by a group of University of California researchers led by Tapan Pathak, published in the journal Agronomy, provides a whole new level of analysis in the ways that California’s agriculture will change and be stressed by our changing climate, and it recommends ways to reduce some of the negative effects. California farmers have always had to cope with a variable climate, but global climate change will make our precipitation patterns more extreme, and it will tend to move storms away from the equator and closer to the poles. Our summers will continue to get hotter, and we’ll see more frequent extreme weather events like we did with the series of atmospheric rivers that hit Northern California in the 2017 winter season. Because most of California’s crops are irrigated, our 20th century water infrastructure is critical to the success of our farms. But climate change is resulting in less snowpack and much more water moving into the low valleys earlier in the spring and summer seasons. Our water infrastructure wasn’t designed for these conditions.
It’s time for our representation in Congress to catch up with the 21st century. Rather than deny the real effects of climate change, I’m embracing the opportunity to build more resilience, adopt more methods that capture carbon in our soils, and fund research that will help us develop new strains of plants that can adapt to different pests, less water, and warmer nighttime temperatures. I call on our representatives in Washington, D.C. to take action now, in the 2018 Farm Bill, to integrate climate change into our funding and planning for agriculture.