CalCAN, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers and the American Farmland Trust are co- sponsoring a bill (AB 823) in the California legislature to require permanent protection of one acre of farmland for every acre converted to residential, industrial and infrastructural development projects. AB 823 would, for the first time, establish a minimum statewide farmland mitigation standard for development projects subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
If this requirement had been clarified when CEQA was first enacted in 1970, we would have permanently saved between one and two million acres of farmland in California by now. Agriculture is crucial to the economy and quality of life in our state, and it is a key component to limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
For a fact sheet on AB 823, click here.
For background on the need to protect California farmland from urban sprawl, large-scale solar facilities and more, please see the CalCAN report called “Triple Harvest: Farmland conservation for climate protection, smart growth and food security.”
We will keep you updated on the progress of the California Farmland Protection Act, and alert you about making calls to your representative as needed.
CURRENT STATUS OF AB 823
On April 29th, AB 823 passed out of its first committee, Assembly Natural Resources. On May 1st, it was held over in the Assembly Agriculture Committee at the recommendation of Assemblymember Eggman, making it a two-year bill that will be reconsidered in 2014. This is a legislative procedure commonly used when there is sufficient support for the intent of a bill but insufficient agreement among key stakeholders regarding the specific language.
The Business Industry Association organized strong and early opposition to AB 823 from varied development interests, the Chamber of Commerce, some water districts and others. Support for the bill came from land trust and open space, sustainable agriculture, environmental organizations and a number of farmers and ranchers.
Since its introduction, we have been in regular dialogue with numerous stakeholders such as the California Farm Bureau and local government representatives, whose support is important in the face of the formidable opposition. Holding over the bill until 2014 gives its supporters and the author’s office time to seek common ground with numerous interested parties and to negotiate amended language without the time pressure of legislative deadlines. It is CalCAN’s intention to continue facilitating this process, working closely with the co-authors of AB 823 and other coalition members.
You can also track the status of the bill here (enter the bill number at the top right of the web page).