Top 5 challenges and opportunities for farmers in California

16th December 2019

Climate change is generating visible impact around the world. SAI Platform’s learning journey in California, USA, on 28-30 October 2019 set out to demonstrate how climate change is taking effect on the ground, and the imposing risks it entails for farmers and companies alike. As a result of these risks, farmers and their customers must adapt their businesses and supply chains to ensure a long-term, more sustainable trading relationship.

Top 5 challenges

  1. Water availability is changing, due to climate heating, but also urban expansion.
  2. Aging water infrastructure is built for less efficient systems; large-scale changes must be made to upgrade water-moving systems to make it compatible with high efficiency systems on-farm.
  3. There is a constant deficit of good and reliable labour. We heard from several farmers how much they require migrant/foreign workers and how much they appreciate them.
  4. Extreme weather events such as fires and droughts are now a norm across the Central Valley. New technologies are helping to cope, but sustainable solutions will also require changing plant genetics and crops themselves.
  5. Farming in a sustainable way can require a change of mindset as well as financial investment which causes a limit to uptake. It requires significant changes to systems and management of the farm, which has the potential for high capital costs without immediate financial returns.

Top 5 opportunities

  1. Technology integration.
  2. Collaborative opportunities around engaging on sustainability (technology, water infrastructure, etc.).
  3. Continue to adopt technologies and practices that limit requirements for heavy labour on-farm (where available).
  4. Advocate to both public and private industry stakeholders to collaboratively work on ways to decrease costs around implementation of sustainability practices.
  5. Working with nature, not in spite of it. We saw numerous examples of how farmers have learned, observed, and implemented practices that take advantage of nature’s benefits to their production. Whether through pest protection, cropping systems or soil health, there are many ways to increase farm resiliency.