Record State Budget Proposed by Governor Newsom: Review of Proposed Food and Farm Investments

Posted on Wednesday, May 19th, 2021 by Jeanne Merrill
Source- Pete Bobb, Creative Commons

Last week, Governor Newsom released his May Revise budget, proposing record investments in Climate Smart Agriculture programs and Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) implementation. The Governor’s budget proposal also includes new investments in technical assistance for farmers, new funding for beginning farmers, a pollinator habitat program, a new urban agriculture program, drought support for producers, and more.

For food system investments, the Governor’s budget proposal would provide significant funding for school kitchen construction, farm-to-school programs, and other food system investments.

Governor Newsom’s budget proposes $100 billion in new investments overall. This largess is a result of a record $76 billion state budget surplus, following higher than expected tax revenue and federal stimulus dollars.

The Governor’s budget would go a long way to lift up sustainable agricultural solutions to the climate crisis and address the drought and related groundwater management issues. However, the Governor’s budget is missing some key equity investments in food and agriculture. For example, despite a very challenging year for farmworker families, who are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 virus, there is nothing proposed in the budget for the construction of farmworker housing to alleviate overcrowding issues or the purchase of PPE to address air quality impacts from the pandemic or wildfires.

Additionally, the proposed food infrastructure investments should go further to develop a resilient food system by investing in regional and local food processing, storage, and distribution systems to increase community access to healthy food and farm viability.

AB 125 author, Assemblymember Robert Rivas testifying at the Assembly Agriculture Committee Hearing in April, 2021.

CalCAN is part of a 15-member coalition that is the sponsor of AB 125, a food and farm economic recovery and resilience bond measure, proposed for the fall ballot in 2022. The coalition has called for a portion of AB 125 investments to happen now in the FY 2021-22 budget. Immediate investments can go a long way in combatting the state’s growing hunger problem and improve farmworker safety and wellbeing while supporting resilient farms and regional food economies.

The legislature will take up the Governor’s budget proposal in hearings starting this week.  The legislature must pass the budget by June 15th and it must be signed by the Governor by the end of June.

Please consider getting in touch with your state representatives to support robust food and farm economic recovery and resilience investments.  Click here for more information:

Below we provide a more detailed breakdown of the Governor’s budget proposal.

Climate Smart Agriculture, SGMA, and Drought Proposed Investments

Healthy Soils Program, CDFA:  $100 million for the Healthy Soils Program’s incentives, technical assistance, and demonstration project funding over three years.

State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), CDFA:  $100 million for SWEEP incentives and technical assistance funding over three years. The budget proposal includes an additional $5 million for technical assistance for producers to address on-farm water use efficiency, which would be in addition to the SWEEP project technical assistance.  There is also a proposed $1.5 million for “drought-related economic analysis and decision-making tools for agriculture.”

Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP), CDFA:  The Senate has proposed the most robust AMMP funding at $50 million. Under the Governor’s proposal, CDFA would receive $60 million for dairy methane expenditures to be distributed among the dairy digester program and AMMP.  Under the administration’s proposal, if history is any guide, digesters would receive two-thirds of the dairy methane funding and one-third for AMMP.  CalCAN supports the Senate’s proposal.

Conservation Agriculture Planning Grant Program, CDFA: Under the Governor’s budget, CDFA would have a new conservation management planning program funded at $20 million.  The program would fund the development of plans that support on-farm management for climate resilience, organic transition, and more, as well as help farmers access USDA-NRCS, state, and local funding.  CDFA is currently taking public comment on this proposed new program.  You can contact Brian Shobe with CalCAN if you have any questions about CalCAN’s advocacy for this program:

Alternatives to Agricultural Burning, CDFA:  $150 million for a new program to incentivize alternatives to burning agricultural waste in the San Joaquin Valley, including chipping of orchard and other agricultural waste and reincorporating it into the soil.

Pollinator Habitat Program, CDFA:  $30 million for pollinator habitat and forage projects on agricultural lands.  The funding would go towards two new programs, one focused on outreach, education, and research around pollinator habitat on farms and ranches.  The other would provide financial incentives for producers to establish pollinator habitat on their operations.

SGMA Implementation, DWR: $300 million over two years to support sustainable groundwater management plan implementation, improved drinking water projects, and technical assistance for disadvantaged communities.

Multi-Benefit Land Repurposing, DOC: $500 million for repurposing land that will go fallow because of a lack of groundwater resources.  According to the budget change proposal, the new program is intended  “to be a state-supported yet regionally driven grant program that will support regions in their efforts to repurpose these lands to other beneficial uses that minimize anticipated public health, ecosystem, and economic impacts caused by this land-use shift.”  The Department of Conservation will lead the effort in collaboration with CDFA and other state agencies.

Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions (FARMER), CARB: $282.6 million for the California Air Resources Board’s ongoing program, in conjunction with local air districts, to fund the replacement of agricultural equipment, including tractors, harvesters and irrigation pumps to reduce traditional air pollutants.

Technical Assistance, Beginning Farmers, Rural Development, Urban Ag, Food System Investments

Technical Assistance for Underserved Farmers, CDFA: $5.35 million for FY 2021-22 to provide technical assistance and mini-grants to underserved farmers to assist with accessing state and federal programs. These funds would be in addition to the $3.35 million in the early action budget that was approved in the spring of 2021 to support this effort.

New and Beginning Farmer Programs, CDFA: $10 million to provide training and incubator programs for new and beginning farmers, with a focus on training farmworkers.

Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Innovation Initiative, CDFA:  $30 million for the implementation of the cluster development initiative in the Fresno and Merced counties region, focused on sustainable agriculture production, processing, and workforce development.

Rural Economic Advisor, CDFA: Nearly $200,000 to establish a rural economic advisor to the Secretary of Food and Agriculture.

Farm to School, CDFA; School Kitchens, Workforce Development, DGS:  An additional $20 million for CDFA’s Farm to School grant program, including funding for outreach, education, and procurement projects. The Governor also proposes $100 million for the Department of General Services to fund the construction of school kitchens to support healthy food access for schoolchildren as well as workforce development in school meal preparation.

Urban Agriculture Program, CDFA: $12 million for a new program to support urban agriculture and urban-food community projects.

California Nutrition Incentive Program, CDFA: $15 million to support nutrition incentives for low-income shoppers.

Healthy Refrigeration Grant Program, CDFA: $20 million to expand the program from corner stores to food banks and other community food projects to improve healthy food access.

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, CDFA: $500,000 to match federal dollars for low-income seniors to access fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets. 

Sustainable Pest Management, Mill Fee Proposal

In January, the Governor proposed a new tiered mill fee assessment on toxic pesticides to fund the Department of Pesticide Regulation and a number of sustainable pest management programs.  The legislature would need to approve the new mill assessment by a two-thirds vote.  Meanwhile, the Governor proposed General Fund investments to support this work in FY 2021-2022, including:

IPM Research, UC and CSU: $8 million for University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources and the California State University Agricultural Research Institute to expand integrated pest management (IPM) research, education, and extension programs.

Biologically Integrated Farming Systems, CDFA: $2 million for demonstration projects funded under the Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS) program to support IPM and biological control pest management outreach and education.

CalCAN is part of a coalition of sustainable agriculture, environmental, public health, and farmworker advocacy groups supporting the new tiered mill fee.  The coalition is seeking to strengthen the Governor’s mill fee funding proposal by including a community support fund for agricultural communities negatively impacted by pesticide use. Such a fund can be used to establish protective buffer zones and to provide personal protective equipment, indoor air filters, and other immediate protections to residents in the areas of the state at greatest risk of pesticide exposure.

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