193 - Laurie Adams and Josette Lewis - California Pollinator Coalition


[00:00:00] Andony Melathopoulos: Pollinator protection and working lands are tightly intertwined at the most basic level on anybody who listens to this podcast knows this many pollinators are required to be able to pollinate to get things like a California almond or a blueberry. You need to be to go from flower to flower, but on another level, how those crops are managed has an implication on pollinator health and not just the pollinators that are pollinating the crop, but also the ones that may be transiting through those lands.

[00:00:26] And working lands. Don't just involve the, the crops that are pollinated, but think about forestry or range lands. All of these have influence about round pollinator health because they often occupy a large footprint of the landscape. Now I real exciting new initiative to try and bring everybody together to come up with very concrete steps for what, how land managers could contribute it to pollinator health is happening right now in California.

[00:00:54] The California pollinator coalition is a impressive new coalition. Key stakeholders and many stakeholders who are, have a stake in pollinator protection from conservation organization to grow our groups that are right on the frontline of creating pollinator habitat in California, to learn more about this initiative.

[00:01:13] I've got two great guests this week. I've got Lori Adams, who's the PR director of programs at pollinator partnership. And I also have Jazette Lewis from the California almond board where she's the chief scientific officer and just having Lori on the show, I've always wanted to have. Jogs my memory that coming up very soon, October 19th to 21st is the north American pollinator protection campaigns.

[00:01:36] Annual conference is going to be virtual this year. So if you want get the the broad image of what's happening with pollinator protection in the U S. Make sure to sign up for that conference. The other plug I want to make is we are launching a 2021 Mason bee health survey here in Oregon.

[00:01:52] If you're in Oregon and have Mason bees, either go to the show notes for the link or go to the extension page. And before you clean your blocks out this year, we want you to complete the survey because we'll be asking you to take some samples from your blocks just after cleaning. Okay. Without further ado, let's go to California to learn about the pollinator coalition this week on pollinate.

[00:02:12] Hi Lori. Hydro, is it what come to Poland?

[00:02:18] This is a long overdue conversation. I've been noticing across the line, the California pollinator coalition. It's really intriguing. And I to begin with why did California need a pollinator coalition or maybe to put it a different way? Why are pollinators so important to capture.

[00:02:34] Josette Lewis: Maybe I can start off and then Lori can jump in.

[00:02:36] So this is Joseph from the island board of California. And as probably many of your listeners know almonds are one of the largest pollinated pollination events in the world here in California. So we know that One aspect of keeping honeybees healthy is to provide diverse forage, diverse sources of pollen and nectar.

[00:03:00] And while the almond tree itself is a very high quality nutrition for honeybees research that we have funded at UC Davis shows that having that extra. Diversity of forage and particularly also forge that perhaps goes beyond the almond balloons so that if the hives are still present we can provide good quality nutrition for honeybees.

[00:03:22] So we have a lot of almond growers who are very attuned to the fact that Additional opportunities for forage like cover crops and hedge rows are important to keep their investment in honeybees safe. It gives us an opportunity to then leverage that recognition. To go beyond honeybees and look at how we can also provide high quality forage and habitat to native pollinators.

[00:03:52] And farming here in California often means you have to farm in a highly regulated environment with a particular emphasis on environmental regulation. So we have to farm to some of the highest standards in the world, and we increasingly recognize that there are. That many times it's helpful if we are seen as part of the solution so that we can be proactive in bringing solutions forward to policymakers.

[00:04:19] So that's the Genesis on our side of. Being a co-founder to this coalition is almonds do a lot for pollinators already, and we really want to both get credit, but go beyond that and be seen as a solution for native pollinators. Wow.

[00:04:37] Andony Melathopoulos: I just, I want to have Lori expand on that, but I do want to comment.

[00:04:41] We've had previous episodes. Project M and other California-based groups that have worked closely and have been funded by California almond board. And it has been really remarkable. I look with MV here in Oregon, the acres of mustard That's planted under a California.

[00:04:57] Almonds is a real success story that, many other states are looking to replicate. And I guess the message that you have is that this is farmer driven. So the farmers themselves are taking this initiative to to to drive pollinator protection. Laurie what are your thoughts on the need for the coalition and Nipsey's role in the COVID.

[00:05:14] Laurie Adams: And I think that's an important part of your question. Why does California need this specifically? California provides 40% of all of the food that the nation eats and we have over 400 different crops, but. In addition, we are leaders and we do try to look at biodiversity incorporated into our agriculture.

[00:05:39] And so I think it's not just California that needs this. I think California is showing the way that other states can also do this kind of cooperative effort. I know Iowa has done a pretty good job of putting this blend of agriculture and conservation together for pollinators. But when you consider, we have.

[00:05:58] And I'm going to go through the list because it's a pretty impressive list. This was introduced by pollinator partnership. That's the organization that I'm involved with. And one of our initiatives is the north American pollinator protection campaign. So we've done this kind of enterprise.

[00:06:15] Across north America, but here in California, pollinator partnership, the almond board of California and the California department of food and agriculture. So it was the state department of agriculture. The three of us formed this coalition, but we have wonderful partners involved in it, including the agricultural console, the almond Alliance, the California alfalfa and forage the association.

[00:06:42] Pest control advisors. The RCDs the California association of RCDs, the Cattleman's association, citrus mutual the California farm bureau Federation, the state beekeepers association, the sustainable wine growing Alliance environmental defense fund Monarch watch on our joint venture project episode, which you mentioned.

[00:07:05] The university of California agriculture and natural resources. So we also have NRCS, Western growers, Neil Davis, and Neil Williams from UC Davis. We have represented in this. Group, almost every acre that is farmed and ranched in California. So just getting those people all together, talking about one issue in a positive way is a huge victory, but we've already started to form working groups together.

[00:07:39] The level of conversation, which is a little uneven right now, those crops that are very pollinator dependent, probably have much more available resource right now for them to talk to their growers about we're raising the water for all boats. And so we're going to have information for websites.

[00:07:58] We're going to have webinars. We're going to have the kind of information stream. And that starts to do what we really want to do, which is add habitat and increase integrated pest management. Those are the two most fundamental safeguards for pollinators, and it's exactly what we need to replicate over and over.

[00:08:18] In landscapes in every state. So it's a very positive step. Nothing about this is built on amnesty negativity. This is all cooperative effort that is really forward and driven by agriculture.

[00:08:36] Andony Melathopoulos: That is fantastic. It, I'm envious, for an Oregonian to be envious of California is, We're not supposed to do that anyways.

[00:08:44] Josette Lewis: I'll stay quiet on that.

[00:08:49] Andony Melathopoulos: But I guess the coalition sounds fantastic. It sounds like all the stakeholders are at the table and that allows for kind of productive dialogue rather than, a dialogue where people are talking past one another. And I'm just kinda curious how the coalition works. Tell us a little bit about the nuts and bolts of how.

[00:09:05] Josette Lewis: As Lori said this was really an initiative rooted in agriculture and bringing in the partners from the environmental conservation community. And so in the early days, which we still are in this coalition, we're not yet we're three meetings in it's really focused a lot on.

[00:09:24] Building trust and building a foundation of understanding of. Of how we can provide options to learn from each other and to establish new partnerships. As Laurie mentioned, there's huge variability in the degree to which different agricultural commodity organizations here in California, understand and have activities around pollinators with their members almond board, because we are a pollination dependent crop where often.

[00:09:53] By its very necessity at the head of the pack on that. So we have quite a lot of effort in this area, but it's always even still an opportunity for us to learn about native pollinators and what we need to do when honeybees leave our orchards. But if you take some of the other commodities.

[00:10:08] Like an alfalfa, which is pollinated by a different type of B, but where something like a cover crop as a strategy to provide a forage for pollinators is. Compatible with the farming systems for perennial crop multi-year crop like alfalfa or, someone from the Cattlemen's association where often you're dealing now with grazing lands and foothills, as opposed to, putting a cover crop there either.

[00:10:34] So how do we what are the existing resources that this coalition could help mind? As a starting point to help people in the ag sector understand what guidance they might provide to their members on habitat. What are some of the incentive-based operative opportunities to get cost sharing, say from state or federal funds?

[00:10:58] Very fortunate here in California and the governor just put a major shot of new funds into programs like our healthy soils program, which can help cost share some important practices that both. The grower in terms of return on to yields and improving their soils, but it can also double as pollinator habitat.

[00:11:20] So whether it's a cover crop or a hedge row, a riparian buffer, those are car-sharing opportunities that state. And then as Lori mentioned we'll eventually ladder up to integrated pest management practices and how we can take advantage of that huge resource we have here with cooperative extension in the state of California and the university of California's IPM program.

[00:11:44] Covers most of the major commodities. So I think we're starting with just trying to get the best available information together and packaged in a way that it can start a learning process among our peers and starting gauging. More member farmers and ranchers and the agricultural community in understanding what actions they might take to provide better forage and habitat

[00:12:10] Andony Melathopoulos: for pollen.

[00:12:11] I love that answer and it does remind it's great that, certain commodity groups have been working with pollinators already. Almonds, for example, has a huge skillset. And, I do find here in Oregon, for example, grass seed, farm, I haven't had a lot of interaction with pollinators.

[00:12:27] May not know that much about them. Don't know what their roles are. And it certainly helps when you have a commodity group, other farmers sharing their experiences. Cause that really resonates. I think, with other growers to hear other growers tell them how they've been able to pull it off.

[00:12:42] Josette Lewis: Yeah.

[00:12:43] And I would just say on that, that is really a core and I'll be honest, even for, almonds. Now I can learn a lot from the wine, great people. There's a lot of very forward-thinking practices in the wine grape industry here in California. And I'm sure they're in Oregon, too. But for me We have a really clear ability to tell growers, doing these things for pollinators returns to you as a grower.

[00:13:08] So providing forage will make those bees healthier. And that's your investment in the beekeeper who's coming back next year. So we can often Help growers understand why it's in their self-interest to do these things. But I think I'll be honest. Part of it is also helping them again, really understand that being seen as part of the solution by taking voluntary actions is also very important to being considered part of the larger ecosystem and the larger community in which we farm and in a state like California, our freedom to operate.

[00:13:44] Very important that we are seen as part of the solution. And so for some commodities that might be the primary driver, is that there this voluntary action is what helps us retain that freedom to operate and that freedom to farm by showing policymakers that we can be part of the solution.

[00:14:02] Andony Melathopoulos: Fantastic. Laurie, do you have any thoughts on that? And the other thing I always think of pollinator partnership is the concept. Coalition builders. I think over, I've worked with a pollinator partnership for some years now, and it seems like you really have a knack of bringing people to the table and guiding the discussion.

[00:14:19] Tell us a little bit about and also just what does that set about being able to do a voluntary program and show that it works.

[00:14:24] Laurie Adams: I think I thank you for that compliment. That's certainly something we try to do. And we certainly aim for that in everything we do because we're having everybody at the table really helps with the ultimate solution.

[00:14:36] If people are listening to one another and they get a lot further, and that is actually where we started the conversation with the California pollinator coalition. Listen to the growers. And we went through their challenges, not their challenges with fallen eaters, just their challenges, growing food in California.

[00:14:59] And we heard about labor. We heard about water, obviously that. Pretty much, everybody knows about water, but labor is a huge issue. An aging population is a huge issue. There is already lots of government and sustainability, indexes and buyers and accountability demands. It's a very complex landscape without much compensation.

[00:15:25] For a lot of the structure that's been imposed on growers. There is pressure from foreign competition. There is pressure for development. So all of these pressures we wanted to understand, and we wanted our conservation partners to understand as the backdrop for all of the issues we already know pollinators face.

[00:15:46] So how can we integrate those two things in that context? And as Joseph pointed out, There are benefits that we are emphasizing benefits that the growers get, not just in their sustainability programs and the story they tell about growing food, but literally that's the health of the soil, the retention of water, a groundwater recharge, the whole notion that biodiversity and agriculture can and should co-exist.

[00:16:20] It's actually a little bit new. It's an old fashioned idea if you're a small firm, but if you're a large production conventional agriculture, you have to see your way forward to how this integration is going to work and benefit you. And that's where we're headed. And I think we're doing.

[00:16:38] The best science we can find, which is also really helpful. We tell the complete story of the science. We don't just pick a convenient fact here and another convenient fact here and make us a case. We actually look at what really happens on the landscape, how much it costs. And that's why Joseph pointed out, we're trying to find money for these growers.

[00:17:03] We're trying to find the resources that they need in order to make these landscape changes. We're asking them to sometimes. My granddaughter production, but often we're asking them simply to take the field edges or the less productive aspects of their operation and put those into habitat. And as you pointed out, and there's nothing better than farmers talking to farmers, a success in one crop.

[00:17:33] Can breed success in another crop and in California, it's a patchwork of many different adjacent crops. So we're not talking about just all, endless cornfields. We have all kinds of different management styles and best management practices that are coexisting. So the conversation in and of itself is helpful for everyone.

[00:17:57] Andony Melathopoulos: Fantastic. Let's take a quick break. I want to come back and ask about some of the specific initiatives I know it's early on in, in the coalition, but since I have you both here, I want to just get a sense of the direction the coalition is going. Okay, we're back. So this is a really impressive initiative and I love that, habitat and integrated pest management been identified as these key issues.

[00:18:21] And I guess I want to circle back to something that has been, we've been talking about the coalition emphasizing the importance of working land on pollinator protection. And maybe I'll just get you to come talk about this a little bit more straightforwardly. Why are working lands so critical?

[00:18:37] And maybe blended into that answer. What kind of activities do the coalitions have planned to actually engage people on working lands the land managers and being able to affect change?

[00:18:50] Josette Lewis: Maybe I can start off with why working lands are so important. Yeah, I think many people are aware that here in California, we have a very large portion of our state.

[00:18:59] In fact, almost 50% that are in public lands particularly federal and state conserved areas. But when you look at the distribution, those are mostly in the coast ranges and in the CA. And if you look at that map of where those lands are, the entire central valley is predominantly in privately held lands.

[00:19:21] So if you want to think about biodiversity in ecosystems for any species that for whom their native range is within the central valley, or they maybe migrate across the central valley. Agriculture has to be part of the solution. There is no way to create large, new public conserve lands that would serve that important role in the ecosystem.

[00:19:45] So it's just by its very nature of the history of our state that those private landholders in the central valley have to be part of the solution if we want healthy ecosystems. We're ready to step up and be on that journey in terms of the kinds of activities that will get us started as again, reflecting on the diversity of where each of these different agricultural organizations are coming from.

[00:20:10] We've mapped out a variety of entry points. So for an organization like the almond board it's really engaging in habitat projects going beyond. The the programs that we've started in the last couple of years to really scale up things like project epicenters seeds for bees and cover crop in almond orchards it to going towards bee friendly farming certification with pollinator partnership.

[00:20:37] So we're really now looking at how can we have more growers particularly creating habitat out of the orchard, where for things. Native pollinators, you really want to have more undisturbed habitat opportunities. But for many commodities, it might start with getting organized and raising awareness getting pollinators on there growers or ranchers radar, and an understanding of these what is What are the pollinator issues for their commodity or how is it?

[00:21:06] They can be part of the solution. So starting with raising awareness and then going beyond that to maybe starting to partner with one of the conservation organizations, again, we have a few of those partnerships already here in. But for many, it will be new. So who do they go to if they want to know how to promote cover crops with forage opportunities or to put in Petros.

[00:21:30] So pulling forward that information on potential partners and then going in toward developing best management practices for individual commodities in many cases, there's much we can learn from each other each crop or each agricultural operation is slightly different.

[00:21:48] You really have to speak the terms for your growers and in a language that they understand. That's, I think going to be a big part of our work is helping promote, develop and promote this management practices for habitat and forage as well as for IPM filling in gaps, getting groups motivated through these partnerships to fill in those gaps.

[00:22:08] And then ultimately again, really the rubber hits the road where we hope to get is more acreage of habitat in the central valley. All right.

[00:22:17] Andony Melathopoulos: Can you talk a little bit more about connecting, those priorities with the rubber hits the road and actually practices that engage the.

[00:22:24] Laurie Adams: Sure.

[00:22:25] And again, just a reminder that this is the coalition is grower groups, so we're not working directly with individual farmers. Even though there's some very large farms that we obviously do work with at be friendly farming and pollinator partnership, but for those grower groups that are not as invested at this point as say the almond board and just to.

[00:22:49] Highlight some of the success of these conversations just in the last year alone, 129,000 acres in California have been certified as be friendly farming particularly through our relationship. It's a wow. Through our relationship with the almond board of California, but not everybody is an almond grower.

[00:23:13] We have many other crops that be friendly farming works with as well. And for them. Just starting to organize and commit to the concept and just internally looking at what's in this for us. And then how do we do those best management practices for our crop? And that might even be regional because in California, there's a lot of north, south geography that can change how you would manage a crop, who do we partner with, but then let's get into the habitat.

[00:23:47] What do we do? To really get habitat in the ground for our crop. And that can be compiling lists of habitat manuals. It can be creating our own for California once we get that information together. And there's a lot of information out there, so it can be then disseminated through each of the newsletters, the website.

[00:24:10] There's a lot of communication. That's already established with these grower groups. Then we can start to create habitat and scale and then maintain it, which is a whole nother level of engagement. Then we can start to monitor what's really happening and even engage research. And that's where we're hopefully headed.

[00:24:32] And then ultimately to manage this habitat adaptive, according to what we learn as we go. So all of these actions are available to everybody, but not everybody can jump in right away. But what we have found is an overwhelming interest in this voluntary participation and in communication within their organizations.

[00:24:55] So that's a huge leg up to see the kind of change that. In California is mandated by 2030. We want 30% of our landscape to be a more welcoming to biodiversity and private lands. Have to be a part of that too. We think this is going to enrich the entire landscape and I think farmers are really very engaged in this.

[00:25:24] And very proud to be a part of this conversation and leading

[00:25:28] Andony Melathopoulos: I really love the way that you put that because, I, one of the things that I've learned from California and the almond board specifically is that the best management practices are specific to almonds and they, they really are not generic.

[00:25:42] It really tells what people, what to do. And I like the idea of when you sit down to prioritize things. You think carefully about the capacities of that industry, where they are at right now and what the next steps are rather than blanket, everybody has to do, because then it actually becomes actionable.

[00:26:02] Like it's something, it doesn't just get put on a shelf and it's oh, No yours are aspiration list and it doesn't never,

[00:26:11] Laurie Adams: and they own it because it really, we all know the work they do is really difficult and sustaining agriculture and having healthy soils, healthy air, healthy pollinators. This is in everybody's interest, but we don't want it to become something where the it's forced because that can be divisive and that can actually make things not progress as quickly as this kind of cooperative.

[00:26:42] Andony Melathopoulos: I'm really excited. I think this is in some ways this echoes, although in a much smaller scale, what we've attempted to do here in Oregon. And what I always ask myself is, and I'm really curious what your answer would be is what would you know, success for the coalitional look like?

[00:26:56] Like what do you envision, what do you picture in your mind? Success looking like in a couple years,

[00:27:01] Josette Lewis: I'd say long-term the success looks like more habitat on the landscape. But I think I'll draw on my mini biology classes prior to getting to where I am today. What really matters for pollinator populations for any population is scary.

[00:27:20] You can't have boutique little habitats that look perfect and truly address population wide issues you need to get to scale. And so with that in mind, I think we're really trying to make sure that this process is about building trust and creating momentum where. Each member of the coalition is further along on a pathway to getting that habitat on the landscape, no matter where they started at it, doesn't help for us to dictate a lot of things.

[00:27:52] If it doesn't create momentum. So they have to find entry points, they have to see where their next step is. And in the next year our hope is. More organizations will be talking to their members about pollinator issues. Some might be developing actual guidance around whether it's habitat guidance or IPM guidance so that we be more BMPs on the way so to speak.

[00:28:19] And that we'll see more activity across more members of the coalition and beyond the coalition. And I would say I would point to a success we've already had today. We just launched this coalition in March. I believe it was this spring. And we already have an additional $15 million that were included in the state budget this last week.

[00:28:43] For pollinator habitat on working lands and that's above and beyond the existing incentive programs. And that's a real positive statement to those of us in agriculture that if we step up so too well, the state government and it really is a great sign that we're heading in the right direction and that we have support from within our industries, as well as from our partners in state government.

[00:29:09] Laurie Adams: And I would add to that. Th that's already success, but what we feel we need for the coalition to succeed is these specific habitat and management programs. We need incentives that are appropriate. So we need to make sure we're supporting this work. We want to piggyback with other programs and other incentives that already exists that can fold in pollinator habitat and management practices.

[00:29:38] We need some coordination, definitely need communications. And I think that's where we're starting. And the information that we're gathering, the conversations that we're having are leading to that kind of success. I think we can picture the success because we're already at least two feet into it.

[00:29:56] Now we have a long way to go, but we are going about it in a way that we have more people wanting to be a part of this coalition. And that's always a good sign.

[00:30:08] Andony Melathopoulos: This is fantastic. I'm really looking forward to having you guys back in the future. See how things are going. I'm also looking for, to I'm borrowing ideas from you as we go along here in Oregon.

[00:30:18] So thank you so much for your time and look forward to catching up.

[00:30:21] Josette Lewis: Thank you. And thanks to all those Oregon beekeepers who are an important part of our industry as well.

[00:30:27] Andony Melathopoulos: Fantastic. Thank you for that.

This week we hear about an ambitious new initiative in California to increase the adoption of pollinator-friendly practices on working lands.

Laurie Davies Adams, Director of Programs of the Pollinator Partnership has for 19 years led the world’s largest nonprofit devoted solely to the health of all pollinators. As Executive Director for 21 years, she presided P2’s signature initiatives, the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC), National Pollinator Week, Eco-regional planting guides, the BeeSmart™ Gardener App, the U.S. Bee Buffer Project and Monarch Wings Across America. She has signed agreements with over 11 federal agencies influencing over 1.5 billion acres of US land to encourage pollinator conservation. She is Vice-Chairman of the Wildlife Habitat Council’s Board. Under her direction, the Pollinator Partnership has twice won the EPA’s PESP Champion Award and the Garden Club of America’s National Environmental Stewardship Award. She was a key consultant with the White House on the Presidential Memorandum on Pollinators and instrumental in the development of the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.

Dr. Josette Lewis has worked in agriculture for more than twenty-five years, spanning government, industry, university and non-governmental organizations. Most recently, she led the Environmental Defense Fund’s collaborations with grower organizations, food companies, and policy makers to promote sustainable agriculture practices. Josette led the launch of the World Food Center at UC Davis, and worked in international business development with Arcadia Biosciences. Prior to that, Josette spent 16 years at the US Agency for International Development. As Director of the Office of Agriculture at USAID, she worked with senior levels of the U.S. government to develop a $1 billion per year global food security initiative. She has served on the US Secretary of Agriculture’s advisory committee on Agricultural Biotechnology in the 21st Century, the Foundation for Agricultural Research’s Food Systems Innovation Advisory Committee, the James Beard Foundation Impact Program Advisory Committee, and is a member of the board of directors for the International Life Sciences Institute Research Foundation.

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