California Sees Budget and Policy Wins for Climate Smart Ag, Drought Relief, and Farmland Protection - American Farmland Trust

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California Sees Budget and Policy Wins for Climate Smart Ag, Drought Relief, and Farmland Protection

When the California legislative session ended on Aug. 31, the state budget included a record-breaking $709 million in investments in climate-smart agriculture, farmworker housing, organic transition, drought relief, wildfire prevention, composting infrastructure, healthy food access, and farmland protection.

California State Capitol
Photo by Udo S.

For farmland protection, there were modest but significant wins in protecting California’s irreplaceable agricultural land. That matters, because the Golden State’s per-capita investment is 11 cents, while Delaware’s investment is $6.03, according to Farms Under Threat research from 2020.

California Farmland Conservancy Program (CFCP):

AFT co-sponsored the creation of this farmland protection program in 1995. Recently, AFT sponsored Assembly Bill 2964, which just passed on to the governor’s desk for signature. The bill will allow program improvements that increase accessibility, simplify, and reduce administrative burdens on farmers and land trusts. Hopefully, the improvements will allow CFCP to attract more sustainable funding, because it has been historically underfunded through various proposition funding, ad-hoc appropriations, and license plate programs.

Sustainable Agricultural Land Conservation Program (SALC):

Another program co-sponsored by AFT in 2015 is SALC, which was the nation’s first to connect farmland conservation with climate benefits. The popular program is scheduled for an additional 25 million in funding to support additional efforts in local planning for agriculture. In its first seven years, SALC has conserved 144 properties in 36 counties, protected over 142,000 acres of agricultural land in perpetuity, and supported development of 27 regional plans to conserve agricultural land, according to the California Strategic Growth Council and Department of Conservation.

california farmland
Photo by the West End.

This funding joins 14 million for implementation of the Climate Smart Land Strategy and 40 million for the Multi-Benefit Land Repurposing Program.

AFT is also watching a comprehensive package of climate change policy bills now awaiting the governor’s signature. Among them is AB 1757, which would require the state to set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for the state’s natural and working lands, including agriculture.

These investments in protecting our state’s agricultural and natural resources couldn’t come at a better time. AFT’s Farms Under Threat 2040 research revealed:

  • As many as 797,358 acres of California farmland may be paved over, fragmented, or compromised if current trends continue, by 2040.
  • That is the equivalent of losing 6,044 farms, $1 billion in farm output, and 13,029 jobs based on county averages.
  • Sixty-seven percent of the conversion will occur on the state’s best land. California is the number-one state in the nation projected to convert farmland to urban highly dense land.
  • Making matters worse, 298,494 acres of agricultural land will be affected by rising seas, due to climate change, by 2040. These losses will disproportionately impact the state’s most productive, versatile land, threaten the future for small and peri-urban farms and limit opportunities for new and beginning farmers.

AFT’s 2023 Farm Bill Platform: AFT California’s policy team worked closely with our federal policy team to develop our 2023 Farm Bill platform, which included feedback from two Farm Bill listening sessions hosted in California with more than 45 stakeholders. Stay tuned for more on our Farm Bill engagement in the upcoming months.

AFT is an active member of the multi-sector Food & Farm Resilience Coalition. The group is working to secure state funding for sustainable and climate-smart farming technologies, energy-efficient and permanent farmworker housing, healthy school food and senior nutrition programs, and much more. Join us.

About the Author
Kara Heckert

Resilient Agriculture West Advisor

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