California’s abundant natural resources and favorable climate have in the past enabled a flourishing agricultural economy.   Also essential to building this economy has been a human contribution: the indispensable work that farmers do!

Today more than ever before, however, food production in our state is endangered.  Chronic drought is of course one of the challenges we face; the state’s water sources must be managed and distributed thoughtfully and equitably.  At issue also are matters such as food safety, use of pesticides, tariffs, climate change, and the working conditions of those who plant, cultivate, and harvest California’s fields.

Government can help to solve these problems.  But doing that will require determination and collaboration on the part of all interested parties.  Since food is essential to everyone’s very survival, that includes all of us!

Our Mission

We advocate for food production methods and pathways that are environmentally sustainable, equitable, and humane.  You are invited to join us in giving support to agricultural practices that protect the environment, while ensuring that the interests and values of everyone who lives and works on the land are respected and taken into account.

Husbandry in agriculture is about the raising of crops, but cares also for the health and well-being of livestock.  To that end, we’ve established a new committee of the Environmental Caucus whose advocacy is featured on a separate page of this website: Animal Agriculture Committee.

Our Approach: One Health

One Health is a collaborative, interdisciplinary movement that recognizes the deep relationships between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.  One Health has been e endorsed by the World Health Organization, the CDC in the United States, and other U.S. and international partners.   Here in California, the Department of Food and Agriculture also supports this approach.

The aim of agriculture is the production of

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Food Production

California agriculture these days is “under the weather,” facing unprecedented conditions of drought.

In an era of rampant wildfires, California farms are often deemed too risky to insure.

The challenges faced by farmers in California are daunting.   Water is only one of the resources that is in short supply.  Soil erosion, antiquated equipment and irrigation systems, and hazardous working conditions impair quality of life as well as productivity.   Integrated, science-based agriculture and economies of scale are  difficult to achieve for individual family-owned farms as well as for larger producers. 

Government can and should give more support to cooperation and collaboration that enable small and mid-sized California farms to flourish.  Our state currently hosts about 200 agricultural cooperatives, some of them involving only a few households, while others are more substantial in size.  By making large-scale purchases of seed, fertilizers, fuel, and other inputs, cooperative members are able to keep costs down.  Cooperatives also help farmers with marketing, provide financial services, and offer horticultural advice.

For more information on the growing cooperative movement in California agriculture, visit this website: Cooperative Farming.

In California and nationally, there are non-profit and government organizations that  encourage cooperative agricultural enterprise.  Farming of this collaborative kind provides an alternative both to currently existing industrial agriculture and to traditional farming practices that today can scarcely compete in the agricultural marketplace.

Human and Animal Health

We can no longer ignore the health consequences of modern food production.

Food is essential to all human and animal life.  Paradoxically, though, the consequences of agricultural production may undermine its life supporting aim!

  • One in six Americans experiences food poisoning each year, which results in 128,000 hospitalizations, 3,000 deaths, and an economic loss of $77.7 billion annually. These illnesses typically originate in the production, processing, and distribution of vegetable crops that humans consume. Livestock too harbor and transmit bacterial  and viral infections that are injurious to human health.
  • Farmworkers and owners fall ill from exposure to pesticides and other conditions of their labor, and their access to health care may be limited.
  • Pollution from industrial farms contaminates air, land, and water.
  • Antibiotic resistance is another consequence of industrial agriculture.  Antibiotic drugs that are administered to promote growth and prevent disease in animals kill almost all bacteria, except for a few drug-resistant “superbugs” that survive and multiply.  These bacteria are consumed in food and enter the environment in other ways, causing severe, sometimes even incurable illness. The California Department of Public Health notes that “More than 2.8 million illnesses and 35,000 deaths are attributed to infections with antimicrobial-resistant organisms in the United States each year. Among Californians, this translates to roughly 360,000 illnesses and nearly 4,500 deaths.”
  • Livestock-related diseases affect human as well as animal health.  The raising of cows, pigs, and chickens in the cramped and unsanitary conditions of factory farms, often mired in their own waste and deprived of fresh air and sunlight, creates the perfect breeding ground for pathogens.  Three out of every four emerging infectious diseases in humans originate in animals. As well, CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) cause immense animal suffering.

Salmonella contamination in Foster Farms chicken products caused 490 cases of food poisoning in California in 2013, many of them resulting in hospitalization.  Cases were also reported in 28 other states and Puerto Rico.

The Environment

Notoriously and inevitably, agriculture depends on a favorable natural environment.   This is a two-way relationship: California’s immensely rich and diverse natural ecosystems are affected by what we do!  Conditions of drought these days make crystal clear our responsibility for conserving natural resources and addressing the causes of climate change.  The challenges that modern farming faces are many:

  • Pesticides and other toxic farm chemicals poison air, soil, aquifers, and surface water. They can remain in the environment for generations.
  • Synthetic fertilizers deplete soil health and rely on intensive use of fossil fuels for their production.
  • Negative environmental consequences of animal agriculture include climate-harmful methane and ammonia emissions, effluent waste, and unsustainable water and land use.
  • Industrial agriculture and overfishing are the primary drivers of biodiversity loss.

Although these problems are formidable, farming that is collaborative and environmentally aware can solve them.  And there is a growing movement here in California  to do so: Calfornia’s Sustainable Farms and Cooperative Farming.