( Photo courtesy Ron Clark )

I have a very good friend who is a third-generation farmer in the very most southeast corner of California — Imperial County. He has never been shy about his observations about agriculture and the long-time habits and behaviors of the farming community. One of his favorite phrases is how farmers regularly shoot themselves in the foot, resulting in a circular firing squad. This particular phenomenon occurs every season when we begin to undercut our neighbors’ prices in a race to the bottom. Sound familiar?

For me his wisdom brings to the surface a much larger obstacle to ag’s very survival: self-censorship to a very real threat that is destroying our industry – climate change. We are finally beginning to use the phrase “extreme weather” to describe what is happening on the ground. However, it is depressing to see our silence on voicing the truth that we are all experiencing and fighting every day — that our climate is indeed changing, and we need to find solutions. Why do we stay silent? 

I believe the major reason is politics. Whether you believe that climate change is caused by humans or not, shouldn’t we speak up for ourselves for the help we need? Shouldn’t we get over our fears of breaking ranks with our self-imposed silence on what is actually happening? Many of our own trade organizations are ignoring and suppressing that climate change is real. I highly recommend reading today’s excellent article in Politico that addresses how the U.S. Department of Agriculture and our politicians are letting us down.  

What can we do differently to promote actionable steps? The first is to accept that climate change is real. The second step is to engage in advocacy at all levels.

Lobby our representatives and senators to move climate change from a partisan issue to a bipartisan issue. We should demand that politicians support scientific research. Let’s insist that the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and all other governmental agencies work together with scientists and business leaders for implementing solutions. At the very least they should repost literature that acknowledges climate change on their websites. The next farm bill should include specific help for farmers to combat the negative effects of climate change. We should invest more heavily in solar and wind power. 

Take a look at California's soon-to-be implemented SB 1383. De-packaging and then composting discarded produce will actually be cheaper than landfill. Salinas Valley is leading the state in developing the infrastructure and regulations that positively impact growers bottom line. Large players like Taylor Farms and Dole are already endorsing this bill and utilizing this option to lower their dumping costs. This is in contrast to other California counties, who are balking at “unnecessary government regulations.” 

Farmers have always understood nature always wins. The smartest farmers know this and plan accordingly. It is long past time to take a leadership position in combating climate change. Our sons, daughters and grandchildren deserve nothing less. 

Related content:
Bring back the deals to help end food waste
The current state of the food waste movement
Thoughts from Ron Clark on making progress on food waste