Pilot Carbon Farming Program

Project Contacts:

Ariel Hamburger  |  ariel.hamburger@sdcounty.ca.gov  |  619-346-5271
Claire Moss  |  claire.moss@sdcounty.ca.gov  |  619-679-4625


The County of San Diego Planning & Development Services is developing a Pilot Carbon Farming Program (Program) to help avoid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through carbon farming efforts in the unincorporated county. The Program, through stakeholder input and best practice research, will identify how the County can best support local agriculture producers in implementing different carbon farming techniques and will result in the development of options for the Board to consider along with the Climate Action Plan Update in 2024.


Carbon farming. Photo credit: Joseph Griffin, Voice of San Diego.Photo credit: Joseph Griffin, Voice of San Diego

On January 13, 2021 (5), the Board of Supervisors directed staff to develop a Climate Action Plan (CAP) Update that meets and exceeds state mandates and establishes actions to meet a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2035-2045. This direction requires the pursuit of all opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as opportunities to sequester GHGs (i.e., remove and store GHGs that have already been emitted).  The overall objective of the County’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) Update is to reduce GHG emissions generated from activities within the unincorporated county and by County facilities throughout the region. While most of the sectors in the CAP Update achieve GHG goals by reducing GHG emissions, the Agriculture and Conservation sector has the potential to both reduce and sequester GHGs through a myriad of practices referred to as carbon farming. To reach net zero it will be necessary to sequester GHG emissions which carbon farming has the unique ability to do.

To advance work on the CAP Update, on August 31, 2022 (6), the Board of Supervisors directed staff to develop a Pilot Carbon Farming Program (Program) with options for program implementation, including identification of potential pilot sites. This direction was part of a larger effort to advance sustainability initiatives that support the County’s Regional Decarbonization Framework and will be considered as part of the CAP Update. According to Carbon Cycle Institute, “carbon farming is a whole farm approach to optimizing carbon capture on working landscapes by implementing practices that are known to improve the rate at which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and stored in plant material and/or soil organic matter.” In other words, by applying different techniques, such as compost application or no tilling, farms have the potential to increase the amount of carbon that the land and plants remove from the atmosphere. Beyond sequestering carbon, carbon farming also has the potential to improve soil health and produce other complementary benefits (co-benefits) such as increasing water retention in the soil, improving biodiversity, and increasing crop production.

Public Workshops

The County is committed to using public input and feedback to develop the Program. Announcements and recordings of public workshops will be made available here.

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