Applause and high hopes for California's new Secretary of Agriculture

Any way you look at it, California isn’t going to solve pressing environmental challenges without agriculture being part of the solution.  I can’t think of anyone better than Karen Ross to help make that happen.

Agriculture matters.  Growers in our state use about 80% of the developed water supply and manage nearly a third of the land.  Globally, the food and agriculture sector accounts for more than 30% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.  Wisely managed, agricultural lands can provide habitat, openspace, renewable energy and food security.  But over-use of chemicals, energy and water can wreck havoc on the natural environment and impact our communities.   California growers have already made important gains in addressing these issues but more are needed as we head into the perfect storm of population growth, climate change and dwindling water resources.

Trusted by growers and committed to stewardship, Karen is the right choice to lead the California Department of Agriculture as it confronts these issues.   We valued Karen’s leadership in 2004 when she worked with NRDC and many diverse stakeholders to help found the California Roundtable on Agriculture and the Environment­--  an unprecedented collaboration of the state’s agricultural and environmental leaders.  More recently, we appreciated Karen’s efforts to support the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, an agricultural-environmental collaboration seeking to help food producers get recognition for delivering performance in sustainable food production.  Under her leadership, the California Association of Winegrape Growers helped launch a statewide stewardship initiative that has since reached growers managing two thirds of the state’s winegrape acres.

Karen’s appointment comes at a time when the nation is more politically divided than ever.  That  divide falls right along urban and agricultural lines here in California.  But agriculturalists and environmentalists need to work together to sustain farming and the environment in our state.   We need someone to inspire us to collaborate and embrace the environmental challenges we face.  I’m betting on Karen.