State Legislation Update: Food & Farm Resilience Bond & Climate Goal Bills Advance

Posted on Tuesday, April 20th, 2021 by Brian Shobe
Assemblymember Robert Rivas presents AB 284, which recently passed out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee with a bipartisan, 8-1 vote.

This legislative session, CalCAN is sponsoring two bills that are aimed at advancing investments and policies to scale up California’s response to the climate crisis while also addressing much needed economic recovery in our food and farming system. Below, we provide an update on those bills and others that we are supporting, starting with two bills CalCAN is co-sponsoring:

AB 125 (Asm. R. Rivas) – The Equitable Economic Recovery, Healthy Food Access, Climate Resilient Farms, and Worker Protection Bond Act of 2022

Authored by Assemblymember Robert Rivas, AB 125 would place a bond measure on the 2022 ballot to propose $3.3 billion in investments to accelerate California’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic while combating climate change, improving food security, and protecting our essential farmworkers. The bond includes:

  • $1.245 billion for sustainable agriculture, on-farm climate resilience, biodiversity, and compost facilities
  • $700 million for regional and local food processing, distribution, and market infrastructure
  • $637 million for farmworker safety and well-being
  • $750 million for infrastructure to combat hunger

AB 125 is supported by over 160 organizations and recently passed out of the Assembly Agriculture Committee with a bi-partisan vote of 10-0. CalCAN is a member of a diverse coalition sponsoring AB 125. Read more about AB 125 on the coalition’s website.

AB 284 (Asm. R. Rivas) – Natural and Working Lands Climate Goal

AB 284, also authored by Assemblymember Robert Rivas, requires the state to establish a 2045 climate goal, with interim milestones, for the state’s natural and working lands. The bill requires the state to identify practices, policy incentives, tracking methods to achieve this goal. CalCAN is co-sponsoring this bill with The Nature Conservancy. The bill recently passed the Assembly Natural Resources committee with bipartisan support and an 8-1 vote.

SGMA Relief, Wildfire Solutions, Farmworker Food Security, and More

CalCAN is also supporting the following bills:

AB 252 (Asm. R. Rivas): The bill establishes a grant program for Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and counties to develop and implement land repurposing incentive programs to support farmers as they reduce groundwater demand under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). These local programs will help farmers who are considering fallowing their land to identify and implement alternative, multi-beneficial uses for their land, including planting cover crops, converting irrigated agriculture to rangeland or dryland farming, creating pollinator habitat, and creating wildlife-friendly groundwater recharge areas.

AB 350 (Asm. Villapudua): The bill establishes a technical assistance grant program to support farmers and landowners in critically overdrafted basins to create and implement conservation management plans that will help them adapt to the impacts of SGMA.

SB 332 (Sen. Dodd): The bill reforms the prescribed fire liability standard for certified burn bosses, which was the top recommendation of multiple fire experts whom CalCAN interviewed last fall. This legislation will remove a major disincentive that currently prevents highly trained prescribed fire practitioners from applying “good fire” to the landscape, including on farms and ranches. For more background on this issue, see our blog on controlled burns.

AB 1103 (Asm. Dahle): The bill establishes a statewide framework to enable more counties to establish Ag Pass Programs, which improve farmers’ and ranchers’ access to their lands and livestock during wildfires. For more background on this issue, see our blog on Ag Passes.

AB 221 (Asm. Santiago): The tragic irony of our food system is that many of the farmworkers who create our state’s agricultural abundance are food insecure, even in normal times. Of the approximately 800,000 farmworkers in California, approximately 77 percent are noncitizens; and approximately 60 percent of undocumented migrant and seasonal workers were food insecure in 2016. The bill establishes a one-time fund to provide workers, regardless of legal status, emergency food assistance. 

SB 464 (Sen. Hurtado): The bill offers a more permanent solution to the issue of undocumented farmworker food insecurity by making noncitizens eligible for the California Food Assistance Program if they satisfy other eligibility criteria for the CalFresh Program.

AB 118 (Asm. Kamlager): The bill establishes a pilot grant program called the Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems (C.R.I.S.E.S.) program to make grants to community organizations that support responses to local emergencies such as community violence, public health crises, and climate disasters.

CalCAN is also tracking a number of other bills this session on issues ranging from regional climate adaptation planning to wildfire solutions. As those bills evolve, CalCAN may consider taking positions on them.

If you would like to join CalCAN as an advocate for climate-smart agriculture and stay up-to-date on our policy work, sign up for our blog and newsletter.

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