In summary

California farmers have an opportunity to turbo-charge the green revolution in rural America with crop-based biofuels.

By A.G. Kawamura


A.G. Kawamura is a fruit and vegetable farmer from Orange County, ag.kawamura@ocproduce.com. He is the former secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and is co-chair of Solutions from the Land.

Roger Johnson, Special to CalMatters

Roger Johnson is a farmer from Turtle Lake, N.D., lrjfarmer@gmail.com. He is the former commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and past president of the National Farmers Union.

President Joe Biden’s decision to rejoin the landmark Paris Agreement takes effect on Feb. 19, formally marking the reemergence of U.S. climate leadership on the world stage. 

Already the administration is moving quickly to restore environmental protections, halt the abuse of public lands by fossil fuel companies and lift federal roadblocks for states like California seeking to adopt more ambitious clean energy policies. 

The next challenge will be for the White House to develop concrete commitments, called nationally determined contributions, that will prove to the world that the U.S. is serious about achieving a net-zero economy by 2050.

Fortunately, when Biden makes those pledges in Glasgow, he’ll be coming to the table with unprecedented support from American farmers, who are leading their own battle against climate change. America’s farmers have been pressing ahead with new precision technologies and regenerative farming systems that improve soil biology, sequester carbon and conserve resources. We’re growing more on less land, with less water and with fewer chemicals. 

Building on and replicating this success across the country will not only help revitalize rural communities battered by COVID-19, it will advance U.S. climate leadership on the world stage. 

Make no mistake, few American industries have suffered more than the agricultural sector from the devastating consequences of climate change. Year after year, we face droughts, floods, wildfires and windstorms that devastate millions of acres. With new leaders in the White House, we have an opportunity to build resilience against that destruction and turbo-charge the green revolution in rural America. Among the most important tools in that process are crop-based biofuels.

According to the International Energy Agency, renewable biofuels are poised to deliver more carbon reductions over the next 30 years than any other technology – including electric batteries. Research from the Rhodium Group stresses the importance of low-carbon biofuels as part of the mix needed to achieve net zero in the U.S. by 2050. 

Most importantly, California’s low-carbon fuel standard has helped prove that farmers can cultivate energy-rich feedstocks to fuel cars and trucks on the road right now – all while reducing carbon emissions, along with toxic fuel additives that poison the air. In fact, more than two-thirds of all carbon cuts achieved by the low-carbon fuel standard so far have been credited to ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels. 

That is why ambitious plans released by the House and Senate climate committees emphasize support for proven farming practices that sequester carbon in the soil. Even faster progress can be made through the Renewable Fuel Standard, a well-established statute that offers the Biden administration a powerful and often overlooked climate tool to shift America’s transportation sector toward renewable, low-carbon energy. With the adoption of higher ethanol blends, like E15, E30, and E85, we can raise the bar for nations all over the world struggling to stem transportation emissions.

These tools not only offer a new source of stability to the rural economy, they can also help to ensure farmers have the incentives they need to continue investing in the innovative technologies and soil management practices that reduce the carbon footprint of America’s food, fiber and fuel. 

To make sure that happens, we urge the Biden administration and leaders in Congress to embrace a 50-state strategy that supports green economic growth for working-class communities – urban and rural alike. 

In California, the agriculture community has long been at the forefront of innovation and sustainable practices. We are stewards of the earth. Today, that sentiment is increasingly the norm in rural communities across the heartland. To harness that momentum, policymakers must ensure that America’s farmers have a seat at the table. 

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Gary Reed with any commentary questions: gary@calmatters.org, (916) 234-3081.