At the end of the legislative session in August 2016, the legislature approved a cap-and-trade budget that included $7.5 million in first-time funding to launch the Healthy Soils Initiative. This program, long championed by CalCAN, will provide resources for farmers and ranchers to increase carbon stores in agricultural soils and reduce greenhouse gas emissions overall.
In addition to the funding allocations, the Legislature passed SB 859, which includes key policy provisions for a number of new climate change programs, including the Healthy Soils Program. Language in SB 859 builds upon two prior CalCAN-supported bills SB 1350 and SB 367 (see below). Key provisions include:
- Establishes the Healthy Soils Program at CDFA to provide incentives to farmers “whose management practices contribute to healthy soils and result in net long-term on-farm greenhouse gas benefits”.
- Enables financial support for on-farm demonstration projects that “result in greenhouse gas benefits across all farming types with the intent to establish or promote healthy soils”
- Defines healthy soils as “soils that enhance their continuing capacity to function as a biological system, increase soil organic matter, improve soil structure and water-and nutrient-holding capacity, and result in net long-term greenhouse gas benefits.”
- Increases the current make up of the Science Advisory Panel of the Environmental Farming Act from 5 to 9 members. Adds members with expertise in climate change and agriculture science and practice along with expertise in agriculture conservation planning and management. Adds farmer members, including a certified organic producer.
- Establishes the Science Advisory Panel as the body to advise CDFA on the Healthy Soils and State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program.
In his January 2015 inaugural address, Governor Brown announced the launch of a new Healthy Soils Initiative. This landmark effort seeks to increase carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our agricultural lands, providing a crucial set of solutions to our climate crisis. California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) coordinates the Healthy Soils Initiative.
In addition to the significant climate benefits of increasing soil organic matter, CDFA cites the multiple co-benefits of enhanced soil organic matter on our agricultural lands, including improved water retention, which is especially beneficial during periods of drought, as well as improved soil stability and nutrient use efficiency, which can help to improve our air and water quality by reducing nutrient run-off and related air emissions.
The state recognizes the importance of research, education, and technical support in this effort, in addition to incentives and farm demonstration projects to promote healthy soil management practices in California.
Governor Brown proposed $20 million from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (derived from cap-and-trade revenue). The State Legislature has supported this funding level in its budget proposals and a final budget deal on GGRF spending is expected in August 2016. CalCAN continues to advocate for this funding and provide input to CDFA as it designs the program. Sign up for our newsletter and blog to receive updates and learn how to lend your support!
For an overview of the development of California policy, including the Healthy Soils Initiative, visit our timeline here.
SB 1350: Healthy Soils Program Act (2016)
In the 2016 legislative session, Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) introduced SB 1350, a bill sponsored by CDFA that updates the Environmental Farming Act of 1995 and defines the Healthy Soils Program at CDFA. This bill follows in the footsteps of last year’s bill SB 367, sponsored by CalCAN and California Alliance of Family Farms (CAFF) (see more below), as well as years of other legislative efforts to promote farming practices with proven climate benefits. CalCAN and CAFF worked closely with CDFA and Senator Wolk’s office to strengthen and clarify aspects of SB 1350. See our support letter here.
SB 1350 increases the membership of the Environmental Farming Act Scientific Advisory Panel (EFA SAP) to include greater climate change and agriculture expertise. The bill also defines the parameters of the healthy soils program, as well as a clear definition of healthy soils: “soils that enhance their continuing capacity to function as a biological system, increase soil organic matter, improve soil structure and water- and nutrient-holding capacity, and result in net long-term greenhouse gas benefits.” The bill complements the Governor’s budget proposal for the Healthy Soils Initiative by providing greater detail on eligible projects and program design.
SB 1350 passed with bi-partisan support out of the Senate Environmental Quality and Senate Agriculture Committees, but was held in suspense in Senate Appropriations.
SB 367: Agriculture Climate Benefits Act (2015)
SB 367 would have created a climate change focus for the Environmental Farming Program at CDFA, including new members of the Advisory Panel who have expertise in climate change and agriculture issues. SB 367 also proposed up to $40 million for farmland conservation and $25 million for on-farm practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon.
SB 367 Supporters
California Climate and Agriculture Network
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
42 farmers in 20 counties
Alameda County Resource Conservation District
Almond Hullers and Processors Association
American Farmland Trust
Association of Compost Producers
Big Sur Land Trust
Cachuma Resource Conservation District
California Association of Resource Conservation Districts
California Certified Organic Farmers
California Compost Coalition
California Farm Bureau Federation
California Food Policy Council
California Institute for Rural Studies
California League of Conservation Voters
California State Grange
Californians Against Waste
Catholic Charities Diocese of Stockton
Center for Biological Diversity
Central Valley Farmland Trust
Coastal Environmental Rights Association
Community Environmental Council
Defenders of Wildlife
Ecological Farming Association
Environmental Defense Center
Land Trust of Santa Cruz
Lutheran Office of Public Policy
Marin Resource Conservation District
Mendocino County Resource Conservation District
National Hmong American Farmers, Inc.
Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
Open Space Authority of Santa Clara Valley
Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association
Peninsula Open Space Trust
Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County
Resource Conservation District of Tehama County
Roots of Change
San Mateo County Resource Conservation District
Sonoma Resource Conservation District
Sustainable Agriculture Education
The Center for Food Safety
The Trust for Public Land
Valley Land Alliance
West Marin Environmental Action Committee
Wild Farm Alliance