CDFA Secretary Karen Ross is the latest administration official to dive into discussions and engagements this week at the United Nations Climate Conference in Scotland. Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot called the events “speed dating for ideas.” The rapid-fire discussions made it all the more challenging for Ross to delve into one of California’s most complex and entrenched issues.

Farmers are grappling with the first drought since the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which is driving more collaboration across basins, explained Ross during a discussion on water-resilient food systems.

“Desperation forces people to collaborate, and we’re at a pretty desperate stage right now,” she said.

This has included partnerships between farm groups, water agencies and environmental organizations, she said, adding: “The one voice that has been left out—and can no longer be—is environmental justice, social justice. The poorest of the poor who are living in these communities.”

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Ross argued the state needs to do much more with technical assistance and capacity building so underrepresented communities understand the situations and history and feel like equal partners in helping to resolve the issues.

To better manage water supplies for drought, Ross said improving measurement tools and building a shared accounting system will be important.

Crowfoot shared that California has officially joined a coalition of subnational governments to take part in negotiations over an international agreement on biodiversity.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys shared his excitement at the conference over research on adjusting livestock diets to slash methane emissions. CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld was also hoping to bring back ideas from COP26 on cutting methane emissions from livestock as well as food waste.