After several years of record high state revenues and budget allocations, this year the state experienced a deficit, resulting in budget clawbacks and a reluctance to invest in new programs. The end of the 2023 legislative session had some disappointing results for CalCAN’s three sponsored bills, with one vetoed due to state budget constraints and the other two paused until 2024.
However, there were a few bright spots worth celebrating:
- Some of the language from the prescribed grazing bill we sponsored (SB 675, Limón), including a definition of prescribed grazing, was signed into law via a separate bill (AB 297, Fong)
- An Assembly Agriculture Committee bill (AB 1763), which included some of CalCAN’s suggested language to loosen restrictions on funding for technical assistance and program evaluation within the state’s climate smart agriculture programs, was also signed.
- AB 652 (Lee), a bill led by Californians for Pesticide Reform and Pesticide Action Network, was signed, which will establish a new Environmental Justice Advisory Council at the Department of Pesticide Regulations
- AB 779 (Wilson), a bill sponsored by the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, was signed, which will assist small family farms as they participate in the adjudication process and support the integrity of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
Below, is our final recap of the bills CalCAN supported this year.
AB 408 (Wilson) Food & Farm Resilience Bond: To Be Continued in 2024
AB 408, a food and farm bond measure authored by Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), was made a two-year bill by the Senate Appropriations Committee in September. 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.
Bond investments would help create a more equitable and resilient food system with proposed funding across four pillars:
- Sustainable agriculture
- Farmworker well-being
- Healthy, sustainable food access
- Regional food infrastructure
Looking Forward: CalCAN and the Food and Farm Resilience Coalition will continue working with Assemblymember Wilson and our other allies in the legislature and administration to advocate for these investments as bond negotiations continue into next year.
AB 552 (Bennett) Equipment-Sharing: Vetoed but Work Continues
AB 552, authored by Assemblymember Bennett (D-Ventura), passed off of the Assembly Floor with a 71-0 bipartisan vote but was later vetoed by the Governor due to the state’s budget deficit and lack of funding allocated to implement the program in this year’s budget. AB 552 was CalCAN and CAFF’s co-sponsored bill that would have created 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 healthy soils practices, on-farm conservation practices, storage, and processing. Furthermore, the program would have supported 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.
“As a state, we know that our small farms are critical for both the economy and ecological diversity. AB 552 would have relieved some of the heavy financial burden these farmers often face by helping them build cooperatives and pool resources. While AB 552 wasn’t within our reach this year, we look forward to working with the bill sponsors to find creative ways to meet this need for the thousands of small farmers across the state.” – Assemblymember Bennett
Looking Forward: We are continuing to work with Assemblymember Bennett, who is the chair of the budget subcommittee that typically covers agriculture in the Assembly, to explore ways to advance state funding for equipment sharing programs next year.
SB 675 (Limón) Prescribed Grazing: To Be Continued in 2024, But a Partial Win Achieved Through Another Bill
SB 675, authored by Senator Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), passed out of all of its committees with unanimous bipartisan votes, but was made a two-year bill on the Assembly floor due to last-minute amendment requests from one of the agencies responsible for implementing a portion of the bill.
However, in a partial victory, another bill – AB 297 (Fong) – was passed and signed into law with three elements of SB 675 copied into it: 1) the definition of prescribed grazing, 2) the inclusion of training on prescribed grazing as an eligible “outreach and education” activity in the Wildfire Prevention Grants Program, and 3) the permanent extension of advance payments for equipment and supplies in the Wildfire Prevention Grants Program.
If passed and signed next year, SB 675 would further advance prescribed grazing by: 1) developing guidance and best management practices to support local and regional entities like cities, counties, fire safe councils, and parks in developing prescribed grazing plans; 2) allowing perimeter fencing and livestock watering facilities, such as tanks and troughs, to be an eligible expense in the Wildfire Prevention Grants Program to lower the cost of prescribed grazing for annual vegetation management; and 3) requiring the State’s Wildfire Task Force to develop a strategic action plan by 2025 to expand the use of prescribed grazing to support the state’s efforts to increase the pace and scale of wildfire resilience activities and strengthen the protection of fire-threatened communities.
Looking Forward: We are continuing to work with Senator Limón to address the agency’s requested amendments and hope to pass SB 675 early next year.
Fates of Other Bills Supported by CalCAN
In addition to our three CalCAN-sponsored bills, CalCAN supported thirteen other bills this year. Their outcomes are as follows:
Signed into Law
- AB 652 (Lee) – Department of Pesticide Regulation Environmental Justice Advisory Council
- AB 779 (Wilson) – Groundwater Adjudication
- AB 1763 (Committee on Agriculture) – Climate Smart Agriculture Technical Assistance
- AB 404 (Connolly) – Reporting Requirements for Organic Farmers
Made a 2-Year Bill (i.e. will continue in 2024):
- AB 1563 (Bennett) – Groundwater Sustainability
- AB 1657 (Wicks) – Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2024
- SB 227 (Durazo) – Safety Net for All
- SB 310 (Dodd) – Civil Liability for Cultural Burns
Held In Committee:
- AB 405 (Connolly) – Streamlining Requirements for Organic Businesses
- AB 720 (Addis) – Conservation Ranching Program
- AB 1099 (M. Dahle) – Goat Herder Wages & Labor Protections
- AB 1197 (Hart) – Local Food Producers
- SB 688 (Padilla) – Agrivoltaics Research and Pilots
Please contact CalCAN policy staff members Brian and Anna if you have questions about these bills.
Their email addresses can be found on our contact page.