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Current Perspective on California’s Agriculture

Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture, provided a perspective on California’s Agriculture in 2020 during her opening keynote speech at the 2020 Virtual Food & Ag Policy Summit West last September. Note that Secretary Ross is also the keynote speaker for BioAg World Congress, which will take place in a hybrid format (live and virtual) during March 14-17, 2021.

According to Secretary Ross, California’s $50 billion farmgate value has flattened due to the 2018-19 tariffs and now due to COVID- 19. Essential farm workforce is top of mind and the goal is to recover the farm economy with a more equitable, diverse, and resilient economy for farmworkers on the front lines of food production and processing.

When talking about Climate Change, she highlighted that California has been at the forefront for over a decade and they have invested almost $ 1 billion to transition Agriculture to a lower Carbon footprint. They have several “climate smart ag” initiatives led by the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) including healthy soils, dairy digestors, land conservation, water conservation, diesel replacements, and on-farm renewable energy. Partnerships with the USDA and with the University of California Ag and Natural Resources are essential for carrying out these activities which include demonstration projects for farmer peer to peer learning. Secretary Ross gave a a shout out to the Almond Sector with its aggressive goals for sustainability by 2025.

Some of the challenges going forward include the implementation of SGMA (Sustainable Ground Water Management Act) and safe