This series of 15 AIC white papers outlines many major issues facing California agriculture. They describe the important factual circumstances, policies and economic relationships surrounding each issue. They do not analyze in any detail implications of alternative responses to the issues. These white papers are designed to provide a quick readable introduction to major issues that will be useful to industry and public stakeholders and analysts, as well as public decision makers and advisors.
Initial drafts of these white papers were prepared in the summer of 2009 to assist the California Board of Food and Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in deliberations over a strategic plan and policy agenda meant to tackle the most important issues facing California agriculture today and to position California agriculture favorably for the challenges it will face in the future. The University of California Agricultural Issues Center, in collaboration with the American Farmland Trust (AFT), was asked to prepare a series of very brief reports covering a range of topics of importance for the planning and agenda setting process. In addition to the 15 topics covered here, two others were written by AFT: “Intergenerational Succession and New Farmers” and “Agricultural Land Loss and Conservation.”
These white papers were conceived and prepared by John Thomas Rosen-Molina and Daniel A. Sumner, with help from others at AIC, especially Marcia Kreith, Sebastien Pouliot (now at Iowa State University) and Jonathan Barker. We thank AFT and CDFA, especially Edward Thompson for discussions, comments and suggestions that improved the initial drafts of these papers that were provided to CDFA and the State Board.
AIC White Papers on California Agricultural Issues
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Global Markets and Trade
Access to foreign markets has long been important for U.S. farmers. U.S. agricultural exports totaled about $115 billion in 2008
Local and Regional Markets
More than seven thousand farms in California (or almost 10 percent of the total) marketed some part of their output directly to consumers, more than in any other state.
Infrastructure includes gas, water, sewer and energy transmission lines, telecommunications and transportation systems, including roads, rails, waterways and ports.
The agricultural workforce in California includes farmers, managers, consultants and other technical service providers as well as many relatively low-wage seasonal farm workers.
Water Supply and Demand
California faces serious water supply issues, in which agricultural uses must compete with environmental uses and the demands of a growing population.
Energy and Agriculture
Energy is again at the forefront of agricultural issues in California.
Soil salinity has become a serious issue in California, with damage already occurring in some regions and some of the state’s most productive agricultural regions are in danger of becoming gradually less fertile.
Farming and ranching are significant contributors to nonpoint source water pollution through irrigation return flows, runoff and deep percolation from farmland where fertilizer, pesticides and agricultural waste are applied.
Climate scientists project that over the next several decades the accumulation of greenhouse gases will continue to raise temperatures and change established precipitation patterns across the world.
Undesirable invasive species have affected agricultural costs and productivity by decreasing yields and quality and acting as vectors of plant and animal diseases.
Agriculture, Endangered Species and Habitat
More than 24 percent of all threatened animal and plant species in the United States are in California.
Air Quality and Agriculture
Farm activities account for more than half of direct emissions of particulates in San Joaquin Valley.
Recent outbreaks of food-borne Salmonella and E. coli have reinforced concerns about food safety in the United States.
In recent years, lawmakers, industry groups and other non-governmental organizations have focused attention on the treatment and welfare of farm animals.
Nutrition and Food Access
Concerns about hunger and poor nutrition are important social and agricultural issues for California.