California’s vital agricultural industry and our rural economies depend on conserving our remaining farmland. 

Each year, California loses an average of 50,000 acres of agricultural land, the equivalent of more than one and a half times the area of San Francisco. This loss of farmland, especially to urban and suburban development, also contributes to rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A 2012 study by UC Davis researchers found that an acre of urban land emits 70 times more GHGs than an acre of irrigated cropland.

Additional benefits that can come with conserving farmland and rangeland include:

  • Agricultural and rural economic viability
  • Soil carbon sequestration
  • Open space and recreation
  • Flood mitigation
  • Groundwater recharge
  • Wildlife habitat

Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP)

As part of the state’s efforts to support urban in-fill development and reduce vehicle miles traveled, in 2015 the state launched the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP).  SALCP is a competitive grants program administered by the Department of Conservation and it funds both permanent conservation easements and strategic planning and policy development grants for local governments to protect farm and ranch land at risk of development.

CalCAN and our partners advocated for the creation and improved funding for SALCP.  Following our efforts, SALCP now receives 10 percent of the SGC’s cap-and-trade allocation, which has greatly improved funding for conservation easements on at risk agricultural lands.

Read about the SALC Program.

Farmland Conservation Bill History

CalCAN sponsored or played a lead role in the following bills related to farmland conservation.

AB 1532 (2012) — Introduced by Speaker John Perez, the bill includes sustainable agriculture as an eligible funding area for cap and trade investment. This is the primary funding source for the SALC Program.

AB 823 (2013) — Introduced by Assemblymember Eggman, co-sponsored by CalCAN, AFT and CAFF, requires local governments to adopted a minimum standard of 2:1 farmland mitigation when a project results in the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses. The bill met with significant opposition from the building industry and stalled in the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

AB 1961 (2014) — Introduced by Assemblymember Eggman, co-sponsored by CalCAN, AFT and CAFF,  which requires local governments to establish and create public inventories of remaining agricultural lands and a plan to retain them. The bill moved out of the first two policy committees but continued strong opposition from the building industry blocked it in the Assembly appropriations committee.

SB 367 (2015) — Introduced by Senator Wolk, co-sponsored by CalCAN. Among other things, the bill calls for increasing the insufficient SALCP allocation to 2% of total cap-and-trade investments. The bill wins almost unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate and the Assembly, and many supporters, but fails to advance.  

SB 732 (2017) — This bill, authored by Senator Henry Stern, encourages local governments to identify and prioritize agricultural lands for farmland conservation and identify land suitable for urban in-fill development.

SB 5 (2017) — This bill, by Senator Kevin De León, led to the inclusion of natural resources bond measure Proposition 68 on the June 2018 ballot, which was passed by voters. CalCAN advocated for improvements to the agriculture chapter. Proposition 68 is a state parks and natural resources bond that includes $20 million in funding for the California Farmland Conservancy Program to permanently protect farmlands at risk of development.

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