Sustainable Ag Priorities Included in Bond Measure
Last week, the state legislature passed budget bills, AB 109 and AB 134, to allocate $1.5 billion in cap-and-trade funding for FY 2017-‘18. To the dismay of CalCAN and a wide network of partners, the deal cut funding for the Healthy Soils Program and the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). This is a huge setback for these trailblazing programs.
The Healthy Soils Program funds incentives and demonstration projects for soil management practices on farms and ranches that sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The program launched this summer with $7.5 million.
SWEEP funds irrigation management improvements on farms and ranches that save water and energy while reducing GHG emissions. Since 2014, this program has received over $60 million. Over the life of the program, farmer demand for the program has exceeded available funding by more than 200 percent.
What happened to Healthy Soils and SWEEP?
The $1.5 billion climate investments package was different than previous years in two key ways.
First, the legislative deal struck earlier this year to extend the cap-and-trade program to the year 2030 allowed several new issue areas to be eligible for funding and prioritized investments in projects that would have direct air quality benefits.
CalCAN supported the extension of the cap and trade program (more on that here). The extension bill, AB 398, along with its companion measure, AB 617, allow for funding in new issue areas including reducing air pollution (from mobile and stationary sources), climate change adaptation, and climate research—none of which was eligible to receive climate investments prior to AB 398. This brought significantly more pressure to bear on how to prioritize cap-and-trade revenue investments. Of the $1.5 billion package, a little over $900 million will go to clean vehicles (cars, trucks, farm equipment upgrades) and community clean air projects—leaving a much smaller piece of the funding pie for other climate change investments.
Second, several moderate Democratic and Republican members agreed to vote for the cap-and-trade program extension only if agriculture received cap-and-trade investments. The deal – made between conventional agricultural interests, members of the legislature and the Governor – left out Healthy Soils and SWEEP. Instead, the deal included $160 million to fund upgrades to farm equipment (tractors, ag pumps, harvesters, etc.), $99 million to reduce methane emissions on dairies, and $66 million for food processor upgrades and renewable energy projects. The cap-and-trade funding will come on top of existing funding, like the Carl Moyer program for farm equipment upgrades.
What does this mean for the future of these programs?
In some good news, funding for Healthy Soils and SWEEP is included in the recently passed natural resources bond, SB 5. If voters approve the bond measure in 2018, the Healthy Soils Program and SWEEP will be eligible for a total $10 million and $20 million, respectively, beginning in 2019. While this provides some consolation, bond funding alone cannot sustain these programs. We still face a-year plus funding gap, uncertainty around the passage of the bond measure and limited dollars, hurting the momentum for these important climate programs.
CalCAN will redouble our efforts and collaborate with our network of partners to ensure there is cap-and-trade funding for the programs in the next budget cycle that begins in July 2018. We will also keep working to improve SWEEP and Healthy Soils program implementation moving forward.
Stay tuned for ways you can join us in ensuring that there is reliable, ongoing cap-and-trade funding for these important programs.
Bright spots: Dairy Methane, Farmland Conservation and Climate Adaptation & Research
Thankfully, two other Climate Smart Agriculture program areas will remain funded under the cap-and-trade budget package. The Dairy Methane programs, which include the Alternative Manure Management Practices Program (AMMP) and the Dairy Digester Research & Development Program, received $99 million, a doubling in funding from the previous year.
The Sustainable Agriculture Conservation Program (SALCP), which funds conservation easements on agricultural lands at risk of development, will once again receive a portion of the climate investment funds that go to the Strategic Growth Council to support in-fill development.
Other bright spots from the climate investment deal were new funding for the climate change adaptation ($26 million) and climate research ($11 million). CalCAN championed new climate change adaptation funding to provide planning and technical assistance resources for farmers and ranchers wanting to improve resiliency and address impacts from climate change to their production. The adaptation funding will also help fund conservation easements to protect natural and working lands that improve the state’s resilience to a changing climate.
The climate change research money, to be coordinated by the Strategic Growth Council, will fund adaptation and clean energy research projects. While there is no specific call out for agriculture-related climate research, CalCAN will advocate for agriculture’s inclusion in the new program.
The bond measure, SB 5, also includes important funding for sustainable agriculture. CalCAN and our partners successfully advocated for the inclusion of the California Farmland Conservancy Program ($20 million) in the bond. There is also significant climate change adaptation funding: $30 million for agriculture through the Department of Conservation; and much larger pot of funding with the Natural Resources Agency, $443 million, to support a broad array of climate adaptation work, including agricultural viability.