State Assembly Votes Unanimously for Agriculture Resilience Bill

Posted on Friday, February 7th, 2020 by Brian Shobe
Cherry orchards, like the one pictured above in full bloom, are one of many perennial crops in California that will likely face severe changes to crop yields within their 20+ year lifespan as a direct result of climate change. Photo credit: Elvis Kennedy.

The California Assembly voted 78-0 recently to pass AB 1071, a climate and agriculture resilience bill by Assemblymember Monique Limón and sponsored by CalCAN. The Ag Climate Adaptation Tools bill responds to the immediate and long-term climate change risks farmers are facing by establishing a competitive grant program to achieve three objectives:

1. Develop science-based, farm-level agricultural climate change adaptation planning tools for California farmers, similar to the AgroClimate Toolkit and Adaptation Workbook that have been developed for other regions in the US. Such decision-support tools are intended to incorporate the best available climate science into farm management planning to help inform farmer decision-making about a number of climate related issues affecting their operations, including crop/cultivar selection for a changing climate and how to improve resilience to more frequent and intense droughts, floods, and heat waves.

2. Pilot the decision-support tools in three agricultural regions of the state – the Central Valley, Central Coast, and Desert Region – with local farmers, ranchers, technical assistance providers, and agricultural organizations. This will further refine and ground-truth the tools.

3. Finalize the tools and facilitate trainings for technical assistance providers, like UC Extension and RCDs, and other agricultural organizations on how to use the adaptation tools with farmers as well as effectively communicate with producers about climate adaptation needs.

AB 1071 builds on the momentum created last year by AB 409, a similar bill authored by Asm. Limón and sponsored by CalCAN. AB 409 received unanimous bipartisan votes in both the Assembly and Senate policy committees, but was ultimately held in the Senate Appropriations committee along with approximately a dozen other climate change adaptation bills as the new Governor’s administration asked for more time to develop its approach to climate issues.

As we know, the climate challenges facing farmers are not getting any less urgent. As just one example, a November 2019 Stanford research brief on climate impacts on perennial crops states that “severe changes to crop yields could likely occur during the estimated 20-year plus lifetime of a single orchard or vineyard.” For farmers planting perennial crops this year, “This makes the choice of selecting a cultivar for a particular region more complicated as growers now must face the risk that the best variety for the current climate may be poorly suited for future climates.”

As a state, we have climate models and relevant research that can help farmers make more informed planting and management decisions that mitigate climate change risks, but we have to make that often highly-technical and complex information practical, accessible, and operationally relevant to producers on the ground.

For a more extensive review of some of the most significant impacts of climate change on California agriculture and what is predicted in the coming decades, check out our publication Cultivating Climate Resilience in Farming.

AB 1071 is now in the Senate, where policy committees are likely to take up the bill in June. In the meantime, we’ll be advocating for greater investments in agricultural resilience and food security, including AB 1071, in the budget and a climate resilience bond proposal currently working its way through the legislature.

A broad coalition of 30 organizations support the Ag Climate Adaptation Tools bill, spanning agricultural, public health and environmental interests. We are grateful for their support.

Organizations Supporting AB 1071
Agriculture & Land-Based Training Association
American Farmland Trust
California Association of Winegrape Growers
California Certified Organic Farmers
California FarmLink
California Food & Farming Network
California Land Stewardship Institute
California Rangeland Conservation Coalition
California State Grange
Center for Land-Based Learning
Center for Food Safety
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Community Environmental Council
Ecological Farming Association
Environmental Working Group
Kiss the Ground
Occidental Arts & Ecology Center
Pacific Forest Trust
Pesticide Action Network
Public Health Institute
Roots of Change
Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority
Sequoia Riverlands Trust
Sustainable Agriculture Education
Vineyard Team
Wholly H2O
Wild Farm Alliance
Wild Willow Farm & Education Center
Wine Institute

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