California Enters New Chapter of Agricultural Sustainability - American Farmland Trust

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January 13th, 2021
California Enters New Chapter of Agricultural Sustainability


The California Budget season has commenced under extraordinary circumstances yet again. The 2021-2022 budget was released last week by Governor Gavin Newsom, following an unprecedented year that recorded one of the hottest months on record in California history. 

The state endured another season of catastrophic wildfires, during global pandemic that continues to persist. Aggravated by the pandemic, the state experienced severe disruptions to agricultural markets and extreme challenges to protecting vulnerable frontline agricultural workers

Despite these challenges, there was a bright spot. 

Motley Crew Ranch in Santa Barbara County, California.

The Governor’s budget included $385 million in California agricultural sustainability, which is an exciting moment for the state of California. His budget proposal not only features a dedicated budget section specifically for “agricultural sustainability,” but also continues investments in popular climate smart agricultural programs that have proven to be successful in combating climate change 

As with any budget process, there is a long row to hoe to advance funding for farmland protection and regenerative agriculture in the final budget. Here’s how you can help.  

Contact your legislative members and ask them to support Governor Newsom’s recommended budget funding requests for:

  • Healthy Soils Program (HSP). AFT believes the HSP should be funded at a minimum of $50 million in cap-and-trade funds to support accelerated actions that will adequately reduce climate impact. A record-breaking number of applications were received between late February and early May 2020, although the HSP was not funded due to budgetary constraints. This budget proposal, however, includes a modest infusion of $15 million in near term funding, or funding for this year, and another $15 million in 2021-2022 budget requests to ensure the program remains viable. Although the level of interest and need by California farmers, will far outstrip the funding proposed, it will allow HSP advocates to continue to work with the administration to seek more robust and reliable funding solutions to continue this important program.  
  • State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP)AFT is enthusiastic that the budget includes $40 million in one-time general funds ($20 million in 2020-21 and $20 million in 2021-22) for SWEEP, after being previously zeroed out. SWEEP will help farmers reduce irrigation water use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural pumping. The program is critical in addressing implementation and agricultural uses, especially in regions that are facing rapid implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).   
  • Support for Small and Mid-Sized FarmsA new proposal this year includes one-time funding in the amount of $6.7 million ($3.35 million in 2020-21, and $3.35 million in 2021-22) to contract with the University of California Cooperative Extension to provide direct technical assistance and grants to technical assistance providers and to small, mid-sized, and underserved farm operations for business planning, regulatory compliance navigation and access, and to provide leverage for state and federal funding. 
  • Sustainable Groundwater Management. $60 million in one-time general funding is proposed ($30 million in 2020-21 and $30 million in 2021-22) for grants to support local planning and implementation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) across critically over-drafted basins. Funding will allow agencies to address known data gaps, plan and implement projects, and address deficiencies in initial GSPs, which is critical for the viability of the state’s agricultural regions in addressing the intersectional land and water needs in overdrafted basins.  
  • Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC). AFT is glad to see the budget will maintain continuous appropriation for SALC, as part of the continuous appropriation of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund monies to the Strategic Growth Council. In FY 2021-22, this is anticipated to be in the range of $42 million. 

There were other positive highlights in the governor’s budget. Funds were proposed to support the state’s farm-to-school program and to encourage continued investment in Integrated Pest Management practices among producers. The budget also included funds to evaluate reducing regulatory compliance burdens on farmers by reimagining how farmers report regulatory requirements for agriculture.  

California agriculture provides more than 400 different crops, has over 70,000 farms and ranches, and generates more than $50 billion in annual sales in the statefueling the economic engine of rural communities. 

As the state navigates its way through the budgetary process, AFT will actively work with policymakers to ensure agricultural sustainability is embraced to protect the California agricultural sustainability resources. Look for more information in coming months and opportunities for how you can help. We are stronger together. Thanks for your support. 

Last year’s budget  

Policy Priorities / Open Letter to the Governor