Some of the bills that we supported and that were passed include:
- SB 5 (De Leon), the Parks and Water Bond that will go on the ballot in 2018. Included in this bond measure is funding for Healthy Soils ($10 million), CA Farmland Conservancy Program ($20 million), and SWEEP ($20 million), none of which were funded by cap and trade funds this year. The bond also makes available a very large amount of money for climate adaptation and resiliency projects.
- SB 732 (Stern) creates a voluntary framework for local governments that want to improve their preservation of agricultural land. It would incentivize the creation of an agricultural element in their general plans by making them eligible for planning grants from the Department of Conservation. The Legislature appropriated $2 million for this purpose to be used over the next several years.
- SB 252 (Dodd) attempted to address the uncontrolled drilling of deep new wells in overdrafted groundwater basins as we wait for the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The original version would have required notification of neighbors and a public hearing; the final version merely requires the entity drilling the well to provide information about it to the local government. It remains to be seen whether the local public can utilize such information to halt negative impacts on rural residents and neighboring farms.
- SB 822 (Caballero) would require state-owned institutions to buy California agricultural products if the price is not more than 5% above out-of-state suppliers. It would require school districts to buy California if the price is equal to out-of-state suppliers.
- AB 1348 (Aguiar Curry) will require the CA Department of Food and Agriculture to track and report on how their programs benefit minority and disadvantaged farmers.
- AB 1219 (Eggman) would expand Good Samaritan protections by authorizing a person or gleaner to donate food to a food bank or to a nonprofit charitable organization and exempt the person or gleaner from civil or criminal liability relating to the donated food. The bill would also expand these provisions to include the donation of food by food facilities directly to end recipients.
- AB 465 (Ting) would extend the “urban Williamson Act” property tax breaks for using vacant urban land for gardens to 2029. Several cities have adopted laws enabling such tax breaks, and several other large cities are considering them.
- AB 321 (Mathis) requires local Groundwater Management Agencies to include farmers in their work
- AB 277 (Mathis) authorizes the State Water Resource Control Board to use existing funding for the purpose of funding grant and loan programs for homeowners’ and renters’ water and wastewater improvement projects.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction (cap and trade) Funding of note (thanks to CalCAN for this summary):
Adaptation: There is $20 million for grants through the Wildlife Conservation Board for adaptation and resiliency. 60 percent has to go to easements on natural and working lands. The rest can go to planning, technical assistance and rural-urban coordination on climate change adaptation. Another $4 million will go to the State Coastal Conservancy's Climate Ready program for adaptation projects.
Dairy Methane: $99 million for dairy methane - digesters and AMMP. No split specified.
Research: $11 million for the Strategic Growth Council to fund clean energy, adaptation and resiliency research. With the loss of the PEIR program a few years ago and the likely loss of federal ag/climate research, this funding source, while small, could help.
Processors: $66 million for food processor upgrades/renewable energy.
Farmworkers: $18 million for low income home weatherization, including farmworker housing.
Sen. Nancy Skinner tried to require the state to make grants to schools to buy local food (SB 782). The bill stalled but the Legislature appropriated $1.5 million for this purpose.
Sen. Bill Monning’s effort to create a fund for clean rural drinking water (SB 623) stalled after he included a tax on urban water districts. He will try again in 2018.
Some of the other bills that failed included: an attempt to extend the streamlining of permits for on-farm ponds that exists on the north coast to the rest of the state (AB 1420—Aguiar Curry); an effort to bring back Williamson Act subvention payments to counties (SB 435—Dodd), something that has been tried every year since they were canceled during the recession—a discussion of how to reform the Williamson Act is being led by the Department of Conservation and will continue next year; a bill to establish an incentive program to encourage landowners to maintain waterfowl nesting cover and habitat on fallowed lands, including those fallowed as a result of a water transfer (AB 472—Frazier); and an attempt by the Center for Land Based Learning to facilitate farm apprenticeships by exempting non-profit organizations from being deemed farm labor contractors in such programs (AB 1503—Aguiar Curry), although this bill will be tried again next year.
The only bill we actively opposed this year was AB 243 (Cooper), a bill sponsored by the Cattlemen to create a Beef Commission, essentially an end run around the existing checkoff system, which requires a 60% vote. The Cattlemen couldn’t get that level of support to increase the existing checkoff a few years back and so tried this legislation to require a 50% vote. The bill was opposed by numerous grassfed beef producers, small dairies, and other folks with cattle not represented by the Cattlemen. The bill was withdrawn from committee in the Senate and may reappear next year.
In addition to our work in the Legislature, we also follow up on certain rule-making by administrative agencies when it concerns family farmers. This year we commissioned a paper from a group of students at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley on compost regulations. In recent years, air quality, water quality, and recycling regulators have all hatched new rules for compost facilities. These rules have created new obstacles for composting, including on-farm composting. Of particular concern for the latter is a regulation that requires significant infrastructure (estimated at $400,000) if you are including more than 10% manure in your compost. After the Goldman report, another report by Sustainable Conservation, and meetings with various members of the Water Board, the SWRCB ordered a 6-month process with staff to revise on-farm composting rules. We are working with Eco Consult, CA Compost Coalition, Californians Against Waste, Calla Ostrander, Will Bakx, and Sustainable Conservation on this effort to free farmers from unnecessary regulation.