Senate Bill 1028 would fund conservation practices and technical assistance in California3/31/20
Proposed legislation would create a program in California to fund and assist farmers and ranchers who use their land to provide ecological benefits.
In the 2020 legislative season, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) and the Nature Conservancy are co-sponsoring Senate Bill (SB) 1028, authored by Senator Bill Dodd. SB 1028 would establish the Environmental Farming Incentives Program, providing cost-share and technical assistance for producers to implement a range of conservation practices on their land. The bill can be seen as California’s version of the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service.
More and more, Californians are realizing that farmers have been and will play a critical part in mitigating climate change and creating resilient landscapes. Practices like cover cropping and planting hedgerows can have ecological and climate benefits beyond what benefits the farmer. Other practices like planting pollinator habitat and making rice paddies a stopping point for migrating birds allows farms to double as habitat in areas where habitat is scarce. However, implementing these practices can be costly and require expertise beyond what the farmer currently holds. The Environmental Farming Incentives Program would provide cost share and technical assistance from experienced local conservationists.
The Environmental Farming Incentives Program would include some California-specific practices, emphasizing wildfire prevention, groundwater recharge, air quality improvement, and others. The program would be housed within the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which has been working with California producers for over 100 years.
This is the second effort by CARCD and The Nature Conservancy to make the Environmental Farming Incentives Program a reality, with renewed momentum in 2020. In 2019, it took the form of SB 253, where it passed the Senate floor with unanimous consent. Ultimately, it was held toward the end of the legislative process in the Assembly Appropriations Committee because it was not directly linked to a funding source. However, in January 2020, Governor Newsom released his budget proposal which explicitly included the Environmental Farming Incentives Program in the $4.75 billion Climate Resilience Bond, a cornerstone of his climate policy for California. If the bond is approved by Californians in the November 2020 ballot, then the program would receive $400 million.
SB 1028 is slated to be heard by committees in the Senate upon the Legislature’s return from recess due to the COVID-19 crisis. If you would like to know more, please contact Kiko at firstname.lastname@example.org.