Prop 23: A Bad Deal for California’s Farmers

By Matthew Green, Outreach and Media Coordinator, California Climate and Agriculture Network

With three weeks to Election Day, one of the most widely watched initiatives on the ballot is Proposition 23, which pits oil company interests against the possibility of a clean, green energy future for California. By now you probably know that most of the $9 million funding Prop 23 comes from out of state oil interests; that the measure would effectively kill California’s landmark clean air and energy policies; and that it would cripple the state’s burgeoning green tech economy and prevent the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Still not convinced? Then put yourself in the shoes of a farmer.

Even gradual changes in climate can detrimentally affect agriculture.  From altered growing seasons to escalating energy costs and greater water scarcity, unpredictable and extreme weather poses real danger to the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers. Energy price instability and the potential for energy price shocks make the already marginal profits of growers even more vulnerable.

California’s agricultural sector is the country’s largest and most diverse, producing roughly half of all U.S. fruits and vegetables, and providing upwards of 400 thousand jobs. A lack of preparation and innovation could result in major crop failures, which would, in turn, have ripple effects throughout the country and around the world.

The evidence about the impact of climate change is so strong, it led U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to state in the LA Times: “I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen. We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.”

Whether that happens, however, is dependent on smart policies in Sacramento and smart investments in green technology.

Some farmers are already demonstrating how to make the transition to a clean energy supply. Russ Lester, an organic walnut grower and processor in the Central Valley, installed a biogas generator at his facility to get the most out of his shells. The system produces combustible gas, electricity and heat, creating $70,000 worth of energy every year. That’s in addition to the solar panels he installed to generate additional on-peak electricity.  With sound policy that encourages private sector innovation and investment, it’s a model that other growers and producers could replicate.

This debate goes beyond just politics; it’s about protecting the livelihoods of California’s farmers and ranchers and safeguarding their ability to continue producing food for us all.

Matthew Green is the Outreach Coordinator for the California Climate and Agriculture Network, a coalition that advances policy solutions at the nexus of climate change and sustainable agriculture.

Please read our other posts on Proposition 23 for other points of view on this initiative –let us know if you wish to contribute a post!

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