Legislative Update: Prescribed Grazing and Farm Equipment Sharing Bills Advance, Food and Farm Resilience Bond Held with Other Bonds

Posted on Friday, September 8th, 2023 by Brian Shobe and Anna Larson
prescribed grazing goats

Two of CalCAN’s 2023 sponsored bills cleared a key hurdle last week: the Appropriations Committees. The third bill, which proposes a food and farm bond, was made a two-year bill alongside other climate-related bond measures being considered.

For context, the Senate Appropriations and Assembly Appropriations Committees review bills that meet certain criteria regarding projected fiscal impact, which includes the vast majority of introduced bills. These bills are placed on the Appropriations Committees’ “Suspense File” and their fates are read aloud during “Suspense” hearings that take place twice a year in May and in August. On average, three-quarters of bills that are placed on the Suspense File in August are passed, according to Chris Micheli, a veteran lobbyist. The remainder of the bills are either held in committee (i.e. dead) or made into “2-year bills,” meaning they can be considered in the second year of the legislative session.

CalCAN-Sponsored Bills: AB 552, SB 675 & AB 408

AB 552, authored by Assemblymember Bennett (D-Ventura), passed out of Senate Appropriations with 5 ayes and 2 noes. AB 552 is CalCAN and CAFF’s co-sponsored bill to create a farm equipment sharing program. AB 552 would create a new program at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to fund equipment sharing programs. These programs would allow farmers to borrow or lease high-value equipment from regional agricultural centers that purchase and maintain equipment for health soil practices, on-farm conservation practices, storage, and processing. Furthermore, the program would support training for farmers on new and innovative small-farm equipment and safety and maintenance. To learn more about equipment sharing, see our previous blog post highlighting the work of the California Plowshares equipment sharing program in Southern California.

Almond farmer Christine Gemperle, Assemblymember Steve Bennett and CalCAN Staff Anna Larson

“We’re thrilled to help craft pathways for small and mid-scale farmers to run more sustainable operations. Being one of the leading costs for farmers, California’s support for the expansion of regional tool sharing cooperatives will help farmers pool resources and save money. Thank you to our co-sponsors, CalCAN and CAFF, for your advocacy and testimonies highlighting the need for AB 552.” – Assemblymember Bennett

AB 552 is now on the Senate floor, where it needs a majority vote to pass. If the bill moves forward, we will be advocating for funding for this program through several avenues next year, including through a potential climate bond for the November 2024 ballot, and look forward to working with CDFA and Assemblymember Bennett to secure funding. 

prescribed grazing goats

SB 675, authored by Senator Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), passed out of Assembly Appropriations with 15 ayes and zero noes. SB 675 increases support for prescribed grazing as an ecological wildfire solution by integrating prescribed grazing outreach, infrastructure, local and regional planning, and best management practices within two existing wildfire prevention grant programs. The bill would also direct the State’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force to develop a plan by 2025 to expand the use of prescribed grazing to support the state’s efforts to increase the pace and scale of wildfire and forest resilience activities and strengthen the protection of communities and reduce their fire risk.

“I am grateful to see SB 675 move on in the legislative process. As climate change continues to bring harsher weather to our doorstep, we must keep all options on the table to mitigate the spread of wildfire, including natural mitigation efforts like prescribed grazing. Ecological grazing has been shown to reduce fire fuels, create fire barriers, and have positive impacts on our environment. After the unprecedented weather episodes we have seen since the beginning of the year, firefighters and emergency personnel deserve every tool necessary to help them protect our communities.” – Senator Limón

SB 675 is now on the Assembly floor, where it needs a majority vote to pass. 

AB 408, a bond measure authored by Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), was made a two-year bill by the Senate Appropriations Committee. All bond bills, except for the mental health bond (AB 531, Irwin) were held for negotiations next year. AB 408 proposes a $3.7 billion bond for the November 2024 ballot to invest in creating a more equitable and climate resilient food and farming system. CalCAN is one of the co-sponsors of the bond bill along with 17 other organizations in the Food and Farm Resilience Coalition, a diverse group of organizations working across a number of sectors including food access, environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, labor, and public health.

Asm Lori Wilson Photo Credit: Agri-Pulse

Bond investments would help create a more equitable and resilient food system with proposed funding across four pillars:

  1. Sustainable agriculture
  2. Farmworker well-being
  3. Healthy, sustainable food access
  4. Regional food infrastructure

CalCAN and the Food and Farm Resilience Coalition will continue to advocate for these investments as bond negotiations continue into next year.

Fates of Other Bills Supported by CalCAN

In addition to our three CalCAN-sponsored bills, CalCAN supported thirteen other bills this year. Ten of the thirteen bills were voted on by the Appropriations Committees last week. Their outcomes and next steps are as follows: 

Passed and Heading to the Senate Floor:

  • AB 404 (Connolly) – Reporting Requirements for Organic Farmers
  • AB 652 (Lee) – Department of Pesticide Regulation Environmental Justice Advisory Council
  • AB 779 (Wilson) – Groundwater Adjudication

Made a 2-Year Bill:

  • AB 1657 (Wicks) – Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2024
  • SB 227 (Durazo) – Safety Net for All
  • SB 310 (Dodd) – Civil Liability for Cultural Burns

“Died” In Committee:

  • AB 405 (Connolly) – Streamlining Requirements for Organic Businesses
  • AB 720 (Addis) – Conservation Ranching Program
  • AB 1197 (Hart) – Local Food Producers
  • SB 688 (Padilla) – Agrivoltaics Research and Pilots

We will publish an updated summary of the fates of bills we supported this year after the legislative session concludes and the deadline for the Governor’s signature has passed. In the meantime, please contact CalCAN policy staff members Brian and Anna if you have questions about these bills. Their email adresses can be found on our contact page.

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