Legislature Fails to Advance Climate and Food System Resilience in 2020

Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2020 by Brian Shobe
A screenshot of a virtual “in-district” meeting with Senator Caballero

Update – October 1, 2020: Since originally publishing this post on September 15, 2020, Governor Newsom has taken action on the five bills mentioned below. Governor Newsom signed AB 2043 (Rivas), AB 3121 (Weber), and SB 1320 (Stern). Disappointingly, Governor Newsom vetoed AB 826 (Santiago) and AB 2054 (Kamlager). You can see his veto messages for AB 826 and AB 2054.

The 2020 state legislative session was perhaps the worst in years for advancing climate change solutions and food system resilience in California. Despite some of the largest wildfires in the state’s history in mid-August, the legislature failed to advance any meaningful actions on climate change this year.

This could spell trouble for the state’s leadership on climate change issues, especially as the carbon markets remain volatile, threatening to defund critical programs.  We will detail in an upcoming blog more on the state of California’s climate investments and what that may mean for farmers wanting to engage in programs like Healthy Soils.

We sincerely thank the dozens of farmers, ranchers, and advocates in our network who stepped up during hard times to join zoom calls with their representatives and share their stories of hardship and innovation. We also thank leaders like Assemblymembers Monique Limón and Robert Rivas, who continued to push for multi-benefit, climate solution bills despite the challenges of this session. We are committed to working alongside them and others next year to advance the solutions we so urgently need.

Below, we summarize the fate of the budget priorities and bills CalCAN advocated for this year.

Bills Awaiting Governor’s Signature

CalCAN supported a diversity of bills this year to advance protections for farmworkers, improve climate risk analysis and support racial justice in our communities. The following bills await Governor Newsom’s signature:

AB 2043 (Rivas) improves CalOSHA notifications for farmworkers on coronavirus protections.

AB 826 (Santiago) establishes a one-time fund to provide undocumented workers and their families emergency food assistance through a prepaid $600 card for use at grocery retailers.

AB 2054 (Kamlager) establishes a pilot program to enhance the capacity of non-law-enforcement community-based organizations to respond to crisis situations, including climate disasters and public health emergencies, in vulnerable communities.

AB 3121 (Weber) establishes a bipartisan task force to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans.

SB 1320 (Stern) improves upon existing climate change assessments by requiring the state to consider the financial burdens of climate change inaction.

You can send a note to the Governor through his website to urge him to sign any of these bills. Instructions: Go to the Governor’s Contact Page; choose “Have Comment”; fill in your name and email address; select the bill number under the “Please choose your subject” dropdown menu; click “Continue”; select “Pro” next to “Position”; then enter your comment in support and click “Send Message.”

Natural and Working Lands Climate Goal and Climate Adaptation/Resilience Bills Died

When the coronavirus pandemic cut the legislative session short, many climate related bills were dropped. Below is a list of bills that advanced to the second house, but ultimately failed to pass to the Governor.

AB 2954 (Rivas) would have required the CA Air Resources Board to establish climate change targets and policy pathways for the state’s forests, farms and wetlands. By including a more robust set of natural and working lands climate strategies in the state’s climate planning, California could charter a path forward for greater agriculture and forest resilience. However, the bill was heavily opposed by conventional agriculture, the building industry, and the Chamber of Commerce.

AB 1071 (Limón), sponsored by CalCAN, would have established a pilot program to fund collaborations of farmers and scientists to develop tools and trainings to help farmers assess and prepare for regionally- and crop-specific climate risks. This was our second year sponsoring this bill. Despite receiving unanimous, bipartisan votes for two years, the bill died again in the Senate Appropriations committee, likely because there was no funding in the budget to implement it this year.

AB 2621 (Mullin) would have enabled the Office of Planning and Research – which leads the state’s climate adaptation planning and research – to provide guidelines and technical assistance to regional networks of local governments to develop regional climate adaptation action plans.

AB 2371 (Friedman) would have convened a climate science advisory team to provide independent, evidence-based recommendations for statewide climate risk mitigation research, planning, funding, and metrics.

AB 2482 (Stone), sponsored by CalCAN, would have updated the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) to reflect expert and stakeholder recommendations, including prioritizing funding for small farms and disadvantaged farmers, incorporating training, and addressing groundwater sustainability and regional disparities. This was our second year sponsoring this bill. The good news: CDFA and the Science Advisory Panel, which oversees SWEEP, agreed to convene an ad hoc stakeholder advisory group this winter to review and update the program, based on a request we submitted this spring. CDFA released its request for applications to serve on that advisory group yesterday, with applications due September 30. Email Brian(at)calclimateag.org if you’d like to learn more or are interested in participating.

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