State Legislature Debates First-Ever Climate Change Investments

Posted on Thursday, June 5th, 2014 by Jeanne Merrill

Senate “Permanent” Funding Proposal Leaves out Sustainable Agriculture

In a recent letter to state legislative leaders, California farmers and ranchers weighed in on the climate change investment discussions happening now in legislature. The letter calls for the inclusion of sustainable agriculture and farmland conservation to be part of any state cap-and-trade expenditure plan.

As part of the 2014-15 budget deliberations (due to conclude June 15th), Assembly and Senate leaders are finalizing their plans for how to spend $850 million collected under the cap-and-trade program. Differences between the legislature’s cap-and-trade proposal and the Governor’s proposal will be part of the state budget negotiations.

Fortunately, all of the cap-and-trade proposals for FY 2014-15 include agricultural investments, but they vary in approach. For example, the Assembly proposal does not include farmland conservation. In contrast, the Governor’s version includes agricultural land preservation as part of the plan’s smart growth strategies as way to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.

The Senate proposes $30 million for “agriculture emission reduction and water efficiency” compared to $25 million in the Governor’s proposal. However, the Senate proposal would have the Wildlife Conservation Board administer the agriculture-related funds. In contrast, the Governor identifies the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Strategic Growth Council to manage the agriculture-related dollars.

Meanwhile, Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Senator Kevin deLeón recently proposed a longer-term cap-and-trade expenditure plan that would “permanently” allocate all of the future cap-and-trade auction proceeds beyond the next fiscal year. They propose spending just 7% on natural resources strategies including agricultural solutions, almost half of what is proposed by the Governor in his 2014-15 budget.

Significantly, the Steinberg/deLeón “permanent” plan makes no mention of agricultural investments. This is counter to the FY 2014-15 proposals, the Governor’s three-year cap-and-trade investment plan, and AB 1532 (passed in 2012), which outlined the process for determining future cap-and-trade auction proceeds investments and included sustainable agriculture as an eligible category.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to call your Assemblymember and Senate to urge their support for the inclusion of sustainable agriculture and farmland conservation solutions to climate change. Click here. It will only take a moment to call and it can make all the difference in whether or not the state’s farmers and ranchers have the neccessary resources to address a changing climate.

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