Agriculture allowance revenue bill on hold

Early in 2011, Senator Lois Wolk introduced Senate Bill 237, the Agriculture Climate Benefits Act. The bill was sponsored by CalCAN. The bill, in its original, stated that a portion of future revenue generated by state through  the implementation of the state’s cap and trade program, as part of AB 32, should go towards research, technical assistance and financial incentives for farming practices that provide climate and other environmental co-benefits.

Particularly in light of increasing threats of federal cuts to USDA conservation programs, this effort seems as timely as ever.

The bill passed out of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, but last week the bill it got held over in the Senate Appropriations Committee and missed a deadline to move out of the Senate, putting  SB 237 on hold until 2012.

CalCAN sponsored a similar bill in 2010 (SB 1241). This year we were able to expand the depth and breadth of support for the bill with more mainstream environmental group support — for example, Defenders of Wildlife and the Audubon Society signed on in support. We also experienced increased interest and possible support from some conventional agriculture trade groups, and the bill continues to enjoy solid sustainable agriculture support. However, that was not enough to move the bill out of the Senate as the larger politics of AB 32 were difficult to overcome.

Several environmental justice groups successfully sued the California Air Resources Board for failing to adequately review alternatives to cap and trade, like a carbon tax.  They argued that, among other things, allowing power plants in the state to achieve a significant portion of their GHG emission reductions from buying offset credits from projects outside of the state would hurt low income, minority communities that are disproportionately at risk from pollution from local power plants.  They also argued that CARB failed to adequately review alternatives to the cap and trade system.  A judge agree. And just last month the judge issued a final ruling that ARB had to go back and do a review of alternatives to cap and trade.

This month CARB will likely complete their alternatives review. How that will  be received by the judge and the plaintiffs is unknown, but we will keep you posted. Fortunately, the judge’s ruling allows the other initiatives within AB 32 to move forward – e.g. green building and clean car standards, etc. (cap and trade was to achieve 20 percent of the state’s total GHG emission reductions). In addition, the judge just lifted a stay on CARB, allowing it to proceed with finalizing and implementing California’s cap and trade program.

CalCAN will continue to serve as a voice for sustainable and organic agriculture in the implementation of AB 32.

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