CA Climate & Agriculture Bills to Watch in 2017

Every legislative session, CalCAN reviews dozens of bills proposed by California legislators for their potential impact on farmers, their communities, and the climate. Below is an initial   list of bills we have taken a position on (we are still tracking and analyzing more!).

But first, an important note: the big story of this legislative session is likely to be about what the legislature does about the future of California’s landmark cap-and-trade system, which is set to expire in 2020 and provides the funding for climate smart agriculture programs. CalCAN will continue to track this issue closely. For now, here are the bills we have taken positions on:

Senate Bill 5 (De León) & Assembly Bill 18 (E. Garcia): California Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, And Outdoor Access for All Act

SUPPORT WITH AMENDMENTS

This is a $3 billion park and water bond to fund parks and a variety of water and conservation projects.  We support the bond effort and are seeking an amendment to provide $20 million for the California Farmland Conservancy Program (CFCP), which is likely to be the only potential source of funding for the program for the next few years – beyond High Speed Rail mitigation. CFCP was created by the Agricultural Land Stewardship Act of 1995, and funds local land use planning grants focused on farmland conservation policy development in addition to conservation easements on critical ag lands. The program has expended just under $82 million to protect more than 56,000 acres, leveraging over $27 million in federal funding and $36.5 million in other matching funds. CFCP has funded thirty-nine local government planning grants.

SB 5 was amended to include CFCP. AB 18 passed the floor with a vote of 54-19 and is headed to the Senate.  We anticipate the two bills being reconciled.

Assembly Bill 1348 (Aguiar-Curry):  Farmer Equity Act

SUPPORT

Representatives from Pesticide Action Network, Community Alliance for Agroecology, Farms to Grow, The Yisrael Family Farm, Sacramento Urban Agriculture Coalition, Sacramento Food Policy Council, Slow Food California, and Tarlesson Farms, met with Asm. Aguiar-Curry to discuss AB 1348.

This bill takes an important step toward ensuring equitable access to California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) programs by farmers of color by requiring that CDFA begin reporting outreach efforts and program usage data for “socially disadvantaged farmers,” which include farmers and ranchers who identify as African American, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander. While diversity in farmers continues to increase annually, data from the 2012 Ag Census shows that California farmers of color tend to farm smaller farms, earn less money on average, and receive 36% less in government funding than their white counterparts.

As pressures mount on farmers to find innovative ways to adapt to climate change, it is more important than ever to ensure all of California’s farmers have access to the resources to help them do so.

AB 1348 is likely to heard in the Assembly Agriculture Committee on April 5th.

Senate Bill 252 (Dodd):  Water Wells

SUPPORT

“San Joaquin Valley Irrigation Wells.” A record number of wells were drilled in 2015 in Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties. Source: CA Department of Water Resources

This bill would require greater transparency and opportunity for local input before new well permits are issued in critically overdrafted groundwater basins while we wait for local agencies to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). SB 252 does not prevent a farmer from deepening an existing well, which is important to our support.

Five years of extreme drought and vast new perennial crop plantings have fueled a torrent of drilling in vulnerable aquifers. As a result, family farmers and many rural residents are seeing their wells go dry and contaminant levels rise as larger entities drill deep new wells.

SB 252 would address this crisis by requiring local governments to make public critical information about proposed wells (e.g. proposed depth, capacity, and estimated extraction volume). California is moving toward more sustainable management of our groundwater resources. SB 252 is a modest, but important step in achieving those goals.

Senate Bill 1 (Beall): Transportation Funding

OPPOSE

This bill sets aside an additional continuous appropriation of 20% of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds (GGRF) for the Transit and Intercity Rail Program and 10% of GGRF for the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program. This would effectively make 75% of GGRF continuously appropriated, leaving only 25% to be allocated to a wide range of initiatives and projects, including climate smart agriculture programs. We believe this would leave little chance of climate smart agriculture and a number of other natural lands programs receiving funds, so have joined many other natural and working lands advocates in opposition. We do recognize the need for additional funding for transit operations and maintenance as part of the state’s overall climate strategy, but believe transit requires a more stable source of funding than what cap-and-trade auctions can provide.

SB 1 passed out of policy committees and is in the Appropriations Committee.

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