CalCAN continues to play a leadership role in facilitating dialogue with state legislators and stakeholders on farmland protection policy issues, beginning with our co-sponsorship of a bill introduced by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman in early 2013 (AB 823). Last week, we were involved in organizing two events on the topic.
On November 5, CalCAN collaborated with the Central Valley Farmland Trust, American Farmland Trust and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers to organize a farm tour with Assemblymember Eggman, her staff, a representative from Senator Galgiani’s office, state and local Farm Bureau representatives and the Farmland Working Group. The group visited two farms in the Stockton area that have put their land in permanent agricultural easements with the Central Valley Farmland Trust. The two farmer hosts — John Galeazzi and Jon Branstad —spoke eloquently and passionately about their reasons for wanting to protect their land for future generations of farmers and discussed the business and personal advantages of doing so.
On November 6, CalCAN worked closely with Assemblymember Eggman’s staff on an informational hearing of the Assembly Agriculture Committee (see video of the hearing), in which individuals representing a variety of constituent groups provided legislators with input on the status of farmland conservation in California. Consisting of two panels, the hearing served as a platform for stakeholders to move the conversation forward on how state policy can best support the protection of agricultural land. The majority of the Agriculture Committee joined Chairwoman Eggman, including Assemblymembers Kristen Olsen (committee Co-chair), Brian Dahle and Mariko Yamada.
In California, the conversion of farmland to residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, and other developmental uses has been taking place at the rate of 30,000-50,000 acres per year, and Assemblymember Eggman stated in her opening remarks that continuing at this rate would entail another two million acres of agricultural land lost by the year 2050. As population will also continue to increase, losing that much of the state’s farmland base would severely limit California’s capacity to provide one-eighth of the nation’s food and half of its produce, as is presently the case. Additionally, land converted for urban use has been shown to account for seventy times more greenhouse gas emissions than the same amount of unconverted agricultural land.
Despite these alarming forecasts, almost all of the panelists appeared intent on coming up with creative and fair solutions to the crisis rather than just accepting the projections as inevitable outcomes of business as usual. Although local government officials and the California Farm Bureau Federation stressed the importance of avoiding a “one size fits all” solution and ensuring local flexibility, they also provided constructive observations and ideas on state and local policy tools to better protect California’s valuable and productive farmland.
Again, check out the complete video recording of the hearing for more details. Stay tuned as CalCAN and our partners advance farmland conservation solutions in 2014.