New Bill Introduced to Protect Farmland

photo credit: CAFF
photo credit: CAFF

CalCAN is a proud co-sponsor of a bill introduced on Feb. 19th by Assembly Agriculture Chair Susan Talamantes Eggman — the Sustainable Farmland Strategy Act (AB 1961). The bill recognizes the significance of the state’s farmland resources by requiring counties to complete a Sustainable Farmland Strategy. It is co-sponsored by CalCAN, Community Alliance with Family Farmers and American Farmland Trust.

“The Sustainable Farmland Strategy Act acknowledges that our agricultural land in California is a finite resource that is critical for our economy and our food security,” said Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman. “This bill highlights the need to discuss at the local level how we can maintain our agricultural land for generations to come.”

The bill requires that counties with significant farmland resources inventory their agriculturally zoned land, describe their goals and policies to retain farmland and mitigate for its loss and compile that information on the county website. Counties with less than four percent of their land base in agriculture are not required to complete a Sustainable Farmland Strategy.

“We cannot continue to lose farmland at the rate we’re going,” said Jean Okuye, Merced County farmer and President of the Merced Chapter of the California Farm Bureau Federation.  “I welcome the opportunity this bill creates at the local level to discuss how our county can support our farmers and keep a thriving agriculture on the land.”

California is the most diverse and productive agricultural state in the United States with sales in 2013 topping nearly $45 billion. The state’s farms and ranches supply the majority of the country’s fruits, nuts and vegetables and are leading suppliers of dairy products. Despite this, over the past 30 years, the state has lost an average of 30,000 acres, annually, of agricultural land to non-agricultural uses.

Counties have jurisdiction over the majority of the state’s agricultural land and play a vital role in regulating the use of land, including the conservation of agricultural lands through zoning and planning activities. The Sustainable Farmland Strategy is intended to be a complement to the state’s Williamson Act, which provides tax incentives for landowners to keep their land in agriculture.

Take Action!

We encourage you to express your support for AB 1961 by faxing or mailing a letter now. A sample letter of support can be found here.

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