Legislative Update: State Bill to Launch California Climate & Agriculture Program

Senator Lois Wolk has authored the Agriculture Climate Benefits Act, SB 367, co-sponsored by the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) climate policy coalition, CalCAN

SB 367 promotes “climate-friendly” agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or store carbon. The bill also reforms and expands the Environmental Farming Program at CDFA and directs $50 million to this program to provide grants to support on-farm projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or increase carbon storage through these practices, among others: soil building and carbon sequestration, irrigation efficiency and water conservation, alternative energy and energy efficiency related to agriculture, and wildlife habitat conservation. It directs at least 2 percent of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund's annual proceeds to support the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program, which is administered by the Department of Conservation for the Strategic Growth Council and is focused on implementing strategic conservation easements on farm and ranch land near urbanizing areas.

These programs are intended to produce climate benefits while better preparing farms to deal with drought, extreme weather events, and other effects of climate change. Because greenhouse gases in crop agriculture are often tied to irrigation, many of the greenhouse gas reducing practices will have the added benefit of reducing applied water. For example, research at UC Davis has shown that growers can cut GHG emissions from conventional tomato production in half through a combination of soil testing, precision “fertigation” with drip, and the use of nitrate inhibitors. These practices reduce fertilizer use and minimize irrigation.

Agriculture is among the only sectors that can actually draw down greenhouse gases and store them in soils and plants. These agricultural climate solutions are needed to meet the state's goals and prevent dangerous levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. By investing a portion of the state's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds in agricultural projects that have been shown to move us in the right direction, the hope is to avoid unnecessary regulation of farming and ranching.
SB 367 has the support of numerous agricultural and environmental organizations, land trusts, as well as farmers from around the state. It passed unanimously from the Senate Agriculture Committee earlier this month and will be heard next on April 29 in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. For more information and to learn how you can help, please visit CalCAN's website or CAFF's website.

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