California's Healthy Soils Initiative is truly a multi agency effort. Across the state, agencies are finding innovative solutions to build soil carbon and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This diversity of actors not only allows for greater collaboration among agencies, but also produces smarter and more innovation ways to improve California's soil health. Below are just some of the ways the state of California is working to boost the health of our soils.
The California Natural Resources Agency supports the engagement of its boards, departments, and conservancies in the California Healthy Soils Initiative. CNRA works across agencies to implement the Initiative in a manner that advances climate change adaptation strategies as described in Safeguarding California and GHG reduction activities through natural and working lands conservation and management.
Biochar is a charcoal derived from biomass and can be used to improve soil health. Although more investigation is needed, studies suggest application of biochar may improve crop productivity, carbon sequestration ability and soil-water retention. OPR is currently engaged in several research and demonstration initiatives to explore the viability of biochar as a soil amendment.
The Department of General Services is committed to improving soil health by demonstrating best practices in building soil organic matter in urban landscaping in state owned landscaped areas including Capitol Park. DGS is also actively diverting organic waste from state facilities away from landfills.
Cal Recycle actively supports soil health by encouraging organic material diversion from landfills to more beneficial uses, including use of compost and mulch as soil amendments, by a tipping fee or complementary mechanism that incentives the diversion of organics. This diversion also helps avoid agricultural, urban and forest woody biomass accumulation and open pile burning by re-marketing organic material as soil amendments.
The Healthy Soils Initiative offers an opportunity to incentivize the management of farmland for increased carbon sequestration in soil, while augmenting co-benefits. As such, healthy soils are a key component in the proposed 2017 Scoping Plan for Achieving California’s 2030 Greenhouse Gas Target (Scoping Plan). The proposed Scoping Plan presents high-level objectives for reducing GHGs in the natural and working lands sector including implementation policy and program pathways with activities related to land protection; enhanced carbon sequestration; and biomass utilization. The Air Resources Board also has a statutory role to develop guidance on reporting and quantification methods for all State agencies administering California Climate Investment (CCI) programs, including the Healthy Soils Program. ARB is developing quantification and reporting requirements, in consultation with CDFA, for CCI projects funded through CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program.
The State Water Resources Control Board and Regional Water Quality Control Boards (collectively Water Boards) work with representatives from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), California Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery (CalRecycle), Air Resources Board (ARB), and other sister agencies to ensure a coordinated approach to protecting human health and the environment. On August 4, 2015, the State Water Board adopted General Waste Discharge Requirements for Composting Operations (Composting General Order). Composting operations are a critical component in achieving the mutual goals of CalRecycle and ARB by diverting compostable organic materials from landfills to reduce the solid waste disposed in landfills, protecting water quality, diverting organics disposal, and reducing methane emissions from the breakdown of organic materials in landfills. These efforts also support the state's Healthy Soils Initiative with a streamlined permitting process to encourage the growth and development of composting operations to ensure sufficient compost is available.
The Department of Conservation supports Natural and Working Lands (NWL) conservation and the Healthy Soils Initiatives (HSI) through a variety of programs. These include the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program, the California Farmland Conservancy Program, and the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC) Strategy and Outcome grants and Agricultural Conservation Easement grants. Long-term and permanent conservation of natural and working lands are necessary components of land-based carbon sequestration strategies, such as the HSI. In future years, the SALC Program is proposed to support direct investments in Healthy Soil related farm-scale conservation management practices that further promote reductions in GHG emissions and increases in soil carbon sequestration.