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California Policy Round Up 2021

October 5th, 2021
Calif. Makes Record Investments in Conservation and Food Systems

Wins for Conservation and Technical Assistance, More Work to be Done on Farmland Protection

As American Farmland Trust entered this budget year, we anticipated a shortfall in funding this year for conservation programs and were faced with a bleak outlook on AFT priority issue areas.

As the year progressed, however, the state began to forecast significant surplus funds – made possible by high income tax revenues and federal pandemic recovery funds. These funds turned a bleak outlook into a celebration for extensive investments in sustainable agriculture that were finalized in late September.

moon over capitol
The moon rises over the California capitol. Photo by David Yu.

During an ongoing drought, climate crisis, and pandemic recovery, the timing of this funding could not have come at a more necessary time. AFT salutes the Governor, his administration, and the legislature for the significant investments, and stands ready to advance investments in Agricultural Land Protection in the coming year.

AFT had many policy wins this session. Here’s a high-level recap on the session:

AFT-Sponsored Bills

Assembly Bill 350 – AFT, in collaboration with Assembly Member Carlos Villapudua, worked to advance this bill to bring technical assistance, targeted for farmers in over-drafted groundwater basins, to address implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (enacted in 2014) through the development of conservation management plans. The bill passed all policy committees and is now a two-year bill allowing AFT and the author’s office to work with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to explore the possibility of including aspects of the bill in its draft 2021 Conservation Agriculture Planning Grant Program.   

AB 125

Assembly Bill 125 – AFT, as part of a groundbreaking collaboration with stakeholders and Assembly Member Robert Rivas, worked to advance the Equitable Economic Recovery, Healthy Food Access, Climate Resilient Farms, and Worker Protection Bond Act of 2022. This is now a two-year bill, meaning it can be taken up next year before the end of the session. AFT and collaborators on this effort are evaluating $1.3 billion in early action investments made in this budget year and are exploring how to advance remaining areas of the bill next year when modest budget surpluses are anticipated.

Early action on AB 125 priorities can be found below and is denoted by an asterisk*

AB 125 is a blueprint collaboration for a bond measure that makes key investments in disadvantaged communities, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, Tribes, small- and medium-sized farms and small businesses. The bond includes investments in farmworkers, to combat hunger, agricultural solutions to the climate crisis, and investments in our regional food economies.

AFT believes AB 125 will be an important step towards fostering more diversity in the state’s agricultural communities.

PROTECTING AGRICULTURAL LANDS – MISSED OPPORTUNITY
McGrath Family Farm
The McGrath Family Farms in Camarillo. Photo by Shawn Linehan.

AFT and a coalition of land trusts advocated to the legislature and the administration for the inclusion of funding for the California Farmland Conservancy Program (CFCP) late into the session.

While we were pleased to see continued investments in the  Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) Program, we were deeply disappointed in the lack of funding and the missed opportunity to advance farmland protection furthering the state’s 30×30 goals during a surplus budget year. In the absence of future bonds, the CFCP relies on investments made by the legislature and the administration. We will work to advance funding for this program in the next year of this session.

Funding for SALC:  $50.2 million FY21-22

Funding for CFCF*: $0

SCALING UP REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE
cover crops around almond trees
Cover crops grown around almond trees on Burrough’s Family Farm in Merced County. Photo by Shawn Linehan.

Among the programs funded, were AFT priority programs:

Healthy Soils Program*

$75 million in FY21-22

$85 million in FY22-23

Total funding: $160 million

State Water Efficiency Enhancement Program*

$50 million in FY21-22

$50 million in FY22-23

Total funding: $100 million

Livestock Methane Reduction (includes priority funding for Alternative Manure Management Program*)

$32 million in FY21-22

$48 million in FY22-23

Total funding: $80 million

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

Agriculture Technical Assistance*

$5 million in FY21-22

Technical Assistance Program for Underserved Farmers*

$5.4 million FY21-22

$5 million FY22-23

Total funding: $10.4 million

Technical Assistance and Conservation Management Plans

$17 million FY21-22

$22 million FY22-23

Total funding: $39 million

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC Cooperative Extension)

$32 million FY21-22 (ongoing)

Climate Smart Agriculture (Technical Assistance)

Five percent of the Climate Smart Agriculture programs (HSP, SWEEP, Livestock Methane Reduction) will be used explicitly for technical assistance to these respective programs.

OTHER NOTABLE PROGRAMS FUNDED

Multi-benefit Land * – $50 million FY21-22

The Department of Conservation will provide long-term flexible support for regionally led development and implementation of land repurposing strategies. Grants will aim to take place at a regional or groundwater basin scale with consideration for unique sub-basin needs with broad participation of local government, tribal government, landowners, growers, groundwater sustainability agencies, resource conservation districts, non- governmental organizations, and community-based stakeholders.

Activities eligible for funding in this proposal include ecosystem and project scale planning, local coordination, capacity and training, project implementation, and monitoring.

Pollinator Habitat Program*

$15 million FY21-22

$15 million FY22-23

Total funding: $30 million

Other Bills Supported

AB 252 (Rivas, Robert  D)   Department of Conservation: Multi-benefit Land Repurposing Program. Included in budget bill.

AB 284 (Rivas, Robert  D)   California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006: climate goal: natural and working lands. On Senate floor – 2-year bill.

AB 391 (Villapudua D)   Pollinator habitat conservation: funding. Included in budget bill.

AB 633 (Calderon D)   Partition of real property: Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act. Chaptered/Signed by Governor.

AB 1009 (Bloom D)   Farm to Community Food Hub Program. Included in budget bill as well as pending signature by Governor.

AB 125 (Rivas Bond) LINE ITEMS FUNDED IN BUDGET BILL

Organic Transition

$7 million FY21-22

Sustainable Pest Management and Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS)

$9.8 million FY21-22 (including $2 million for BIFS)

Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program for projects that include the development of multi-unit affordable housing for farmworker families and households

$100 million FY21-22

Low-Income Housing Grants for weatherization

$25 million FY21-22

Provide training for school food service workers to promote healthier and more nutritious meals, and grants for kitchen infrastructure upgrades

$150 million FY21-22

Healthy Refrigeration Program

$10 million FY21-22

$10 million FY22-23

Total funding: $20 million

Capacity and Infrastructure Needs in the Senior Nutrition program

$40 million FY21-22

New Urban Agriculture Program

$12 million FY21-22

Farm to Community Food Hub Program

$15 million FY21-22

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Implementation

$60 million FY21-22

$120 million FY21-22

Total funding: $180 million

Waste Reduction Program

$130 million FY21-22

Fairgrounds and Community Resilience Centers

$190 million FY21-22 ($150 million for Community Resilience Centers)

What Comes Next?  American Farmland Trust will release its priorities for 2022 at the end of this year and will follow the progress for the second year of the session. Stay tuned for updates.

More Resources

California’s Ag Policy Priorities

Saving Farmland, Growing Cities

Local Planning for Ag + Climate Resilience Webinar