Climate Smart Ag Act Introduced to Increase Technical Assistance for Farmers

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D – Thousand Oaks) recently introduced legislation to accelerate farmers’ and ranchers’ adoption of climate-beneficial practices by providing them with the technical assistance they need to participate in California’s innovative Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) programs.

The programs – which include the Healthy Soils Program (HSP), the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), and the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP) –  provide critical financial incentives to farmers and ranchers interested in transitioning to practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sinks, and improve communities’ air and water quality.

Many farmers and ranchers we work with are eager to adopt more sustainable practices with support from these programs, but have struggled to design, apply for, and implement CSA projects, all of which requires significant technical knowledge, time, and administrative capacity to complete.

“These grant programs are crucial to helping farmers and ranchers transition to climate smart practices,” said Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin. “By providing technical assistance, we are helping ensure farmers and ranchers are getting the support for these new practices, that the projects are successful, and that we are using our limited state resources wisely.”

Assembly Bill 2377 addresses these barriers by requiring 15 percent of the annual budgets of HSP, SWEEP, and AMMP be used to provide technical assistance to farmers and ranchers applying for those programs. Specifically, under the bill, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) would establish a technical assistance grant program to provide up to $125,000 annually for up to three years to technical assistance providers –  such as Resource Conservation Districts, University of California Cooperative Extension, nonprofits and other ag professionals – to assist farmers and ranchers through CSA program outreach, project design, application assistance, and project implementation.

VIDEO – Tchieng Family Farm and Thao Family Farms, both in Fresno County, applied for and implemented their SWEEP grants with technical assistance from University of California Cooperative Extension.

Increased technical assistance will allow for a greater number and diversity of farmers to successfully participate in and improve the overall impact of the CSA programs. The bill prioritizes technical assistance for small and moderately-scaled farms and ranches, farmers of color, and women farmers, who often cannot afford private consultants to write their grant applications and design and implement their projects. The bill also requires the state to coordinate program guidelines and outreach with the California Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which funds many of the same types of projects through their farm bill conservation programs.

“We’ve learned a lot from the first few rounds of the Climate Smart Ag Programs,” said CalCAN Policy Director Jeanne Merrill. “This bill recognizes the integral role technical assistance plays in transforming agricultural practices and improving the reach of the Climate Smart Agriculture programs. CalCAN is proud to sponsor this bill and looks forward to shepherding it through the legislative process. This is a win-win for farmers and the environment.”

CalCAN’s coalition member organizations helped to inform the bill. They are:

  • Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF)
  • California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)
  • California FarmLink
  • Ecological Farming Association
  • Wild Farm Alliance
  • Center for Food Safety
  • Occidental Arts & Ecology Center

AB 2377 will soon be referred to one or more policy committees, where it will be debated and voted on in a public hearing. We’ll post updates on the bill’s progress on this blog, Twitter, and Facebook. For opportunities to engage your state representatives on this bill, sign up for our newsletter updates or be in touch with us directly.

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