Growing Returns

Groundwater plans are due in California, but the hard work is just getting started

January 31 is a big day for California water. It’s the day when 19 critically overdrafted groundwater basins must submit plans to the state for how they will bring their groundwater demand in line with available supplies over the next 20 years.

This deadline was set by the state’s most sweeping water law change in a century – the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). SGMA, passed during the last major drought, was designed to put an end to groundwater overpumping and ensure there’s enough water for people, the economy and wildlife in California for generations to come.

SGMA is taking water managers and users into uncharted territory. Since its passage, California water managers have made important progress, creating new groundwater agencies and learning more about their local groundwater supplies and demands. These are important first steps toward sustainability, but SGMA requires a deeper paradigm shift to succeed.

Here are four actions that will help drive this massive shift and move California closer to truly balancing groundwater supply and demand.

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What are cover crops doing on a pecan orchard? Hopefully attracting bugs.

You don’t typically hear farmers saying they want to attract bugs to their farm, but that’s what a unique conservation project in California’s Sacramento Valley is doing – determining whether cover crops can attract more at-risk native pollinators, like monarch butterflies, in addition to insects that serve as pest control, like ladybugs.

The project came about thanks to a $3-million monarch and pollinator recovery bill (AB 2421) designed to establish habitat restoration projects for important pollinator species facing steep population losses. Read More »

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Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio puts California on course to climate resilience

It is encouraging that one of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first actions in 2020 was the Jan. 3 release of the much-anticipated Water Resilience Portfolio.

While Newsom has been forced to address climate change on many fronts during the past year – think wildfires, blackouts and automobile standards – the state’s myriad water challenges must remain a priority. Our state’s water system is decades old and needs to be re-envisioned for a new era. Read More »

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New Jersey prepares for future with seas rising faster than anticipated

Coastal states are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and that is especially true in New Jersey. To better understand and plan for this risk, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) released a new report by Rutgers University that examines the state’s historical rates of sea level rise and updates future projections.

The report finds that sea level has increased at a higher-than-average rate for the Garden State, and seas could rise by an additional six feet by 2100.

Nearly eight years after Superstorm Sandy devastated the state, this and other report findings can help state planners and policymakers take proactive measures to help build resilience and mitigate impacts from rising seas and future storms. Read More »

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Plant-based foods are booming, but we need sustainable meat, too

By Ame Igharo, originally published on the EDF+Business blog

The statistics on plant-based proteins are eye opening: Beyond Meat’s shares have more than tripled in value since in its IPO in May, Impossible Foods can now be found in about 10,000 restaurants, and the market for meat substitutes is expected to reach $2.5 billion by 2023. In fact, dollar sales of plant-based products are growing double digits across the country, and you can now find meat alternatives in Burger King, White Castle and Carl’s Jr, among other chains. Read More »

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Farmer grit created unexpected bright spots in a difficult year

It is a wild understatement to say it has been a hard year in agriculture. It has been a year of loss, heartbreak and stress. As a frontpage Washington Post article captured, “Farm bankruptcies and loan delinquencies are rising, calamitous weather events are ruining crops and profits are vanishing during Trump’s global trade disputes.”

I had to dig deep, but I was determined to find some silver linings.

As I sat with my pen, paper and thoughts, I found I had more and more to write. I was reminded that farmers have amazing grit and determination, which is why, despite the incredible challenges ahead, I remain firmly optimistic that we will find the ways to feed the world while sustaining the natural resources on which we all depend. Read More »

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What 2,000 years of traditional Hopi farming in the arid Southwest can teach about resilience

When Michael Kotutwa Johnson was 8 years old, he began spending much of his time on the Hopi reservation in Arizona with his grandfather, who taught him how to farm.

For more than 2,000 years, the Hopi have been farming without irrigation in an area of Arizona that receives less than 10 inches of rain a year.

“Hopi is a testament to doing a lot with a little,” Mike says. “A raindrop can raise a whole plant.”

Mike went on to study science and public policy in college and recently earned a Ph.D. in natural resource management at the University of Arizona. He is now living back on the Hopi reservation, farming and working as a research associate at the Native American Agricultural Fund. The fund’s mission is to promote the sustainability and viability of Indian agriculture in America, and Mike’s personal mission is to bring more Hopi back to farming.

I had the opportunity to talk to Mike about the Hopi’s unique way of farming and how it can inspire other farmers seeking to become more resilient to climate change and increasingly finite water supplies. Here’s what he shared with me. Read More »

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2019 made climate impacts visible. Here are 4 stories of resilience that give me hope for 2020.

This year has been one of the toughest yet for communities across the country feeling the impacts of climate change.

Farmers took big hits from unprecedented flooding in the Midwest, coastal communities were pummeled with record-breaking rainfall and storms, and more than 250,000 acres in my home state of California burned from wildfires that took precious lives and left millions of people without power for days on end. As we enter a new decade, these four stories of resilience provide hope that we will take bold climate action in 2020. Click To Tweet

It’s easy to feel hopeless hearing one climate disaster story after another. But if you look around, there are also stories of resilience that can provide hope for the future. Here are four that inspire me. Read More »

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3 ways agricultural lenders can help farmers reap millions in savings from conservation

The U.S. farm economy is in its worst condition in decades due to several years of low crop prices, ongoing trade disputes, natural disasters and other variable weather. But many farmers are adapting and innovating – implementing conservation practices that build soil health and resilience, such as nutrient optimization, cover crops and no-till.

Still, there is a growing need for farmers to understand the full financial benefits of these practices and prove their value to ag lenders and other financial partners.

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Coastal states need resilience plans. Here are six essential elements.

Coastal states are turning to resilience planning to confront extreme weather and climate change. New Jersey, North Carolina and Florida have all hired chief resilience officers to oversee their states’ resilience strategies. Louisiana has been a leader in coastal resilience for more than a decade.

In 2007, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Louisiana embarked on its first of three Coastal Master Plans – science-based and publicly-informed coastal resilience plans. With each iteration, Louisiana improved the science, enriched public engagement and increased transparency in decision-making to build plans that were unanimously approved by the state legislature three times.

Based on this experience, here are six essential elements that states should include in their coastal resilience plans: Read More »

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