Conservation Bond Passes Senate; Farmland Planning Measure Advances; SALCP workshops this month

Coyote Valley, Santa Clara County

Funding for farmland conservation, healthy soils and climate change adaptation got a big boost last week. Senate Bill 5, the park and water bond measure authored by Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León, passed the floor with more than the two-thirds vote needed (31 ayes, 9 noes). The measure provides much needed funding for a host of natural resource conservation activities. The bill now has to be reconciled with the Assembly version, AB 18 (E. Garcia, D-Coachella).

CalCAN, with our agriculture and conservation allies, successfully sought the inclusion of $25 million in the bond measure for the California Farmland Conservancy Program (CFCP). Without new funding, the program is out of funds with only limited dollars available for High Speed Rail mitigation.

The program funds conservation easements on agricultural land to permanently protecting it from development and keep it in agricultural production. A complement to the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program, the program also provides funding for local government farmland conservation planning and policy development. As California continues to lose an average of 50,000 acres of agricultural land every year, ongoing support for farmland conservation remains critical.

SB 5 also provides important first-time funding of $40 million for climate change adaptation. The funds will be available to do the following:

plan, develop, and implement innovative farm and ranch management practices and protections that improve climate adaptation and resiliency by improving the soil health, carbon sequestration, and habitat of California’s farm and ranch lands and affiliated habitat, including working lands, open space, or riparian corridors, and that increase water retention and absorption, habitat values, species protection, and economic viability to reduce development pressure.

Importantly, SB 5 also provides $15 million for the new Healthy Soils program, administered by the Department of Food and Agriculture. This gives a much needed boost to the under-funded program.

We will keep you updated on the next steps for the bond measure as it heads to the Assembly.

SB 732: Improving Farmland Conservation Planning and Policy Development

Senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) is the author of SB 732, which seeks to improve local government farmland conservation planning and policy development. The bill passed the Senate last week, 28-11, and now heads to the Assembly.

photo credit: CAFF

The bill encourages local governments to do a better job of mapping their agricultural lands and planning for improved farmland conservation and related in-fill urban development in their open space element of the General Plan. CalCAN co-sponsored similar legislation a few years ago, but the effort was stopped by the building industry.

SB 732, different than our earlier efforts, incentivizes local governments with possible funding from the Department of Conservation if their efforts meet the legislative guidelines. To date, the Department’s funding for local government to improve farmland conservation measures has been limited. However, this year the Governor’s budget proposes over $2 million to fund DOC’s local government farmland conservation planning efforts.

CalCAN and our partners, Community Alliance with Family Farmers and American Farmland Trust, are seeking amendments to the bill to clarify and strengthen its provisions, including improving the definition of farmland, the identification of land available for in-fill development and specific policy guidance to local government from DOC. If you would like more information, please drop us a line: jmerrill@calclimatea.org

Workshops Announced for the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP)

The Department of Conservation will host workshops this month for potential applicants to learn more about the new round of funding for the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP).

SALCP funds conservation easements on agricultural lands at risk of development and Strategy and Outcome grants for local governments. The program is part of the Strategic Growth Council’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities climate change investments.

SALCP Workshop details:

Monday, June 5, 2017

Gilroy

1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m.

City Council Chambers

7351 Rosanna St, Gilroy CA 95020

 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Webinar

1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Please RSVP for login information: cfcp@conservation.ca.gov

 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ventura*

11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Ventura County Hall of Administration

800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura CA 93009

*co-hosted by Southern California Area Governments

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