[SACRAMENTO, CA] – Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) has introduced AB 552 which would create a new program to increase equipment access for small and mid-scale growers. The program will increase access to necessary farm equipment for health soil practices, on-farm conservation practices, storage, and processing. The program will also offer essential technical assistance to farmers around the maintenance of tools, tool demonstrations, and developing farm cooperatives. The bill is co-sponsored by the California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN) and Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF).
The purchase of farm equipment is one of the largest capital investments farmers make and can be inaccessible for small, underserved, and beginning farmers with limited cash flow. These small-scale and often biologically diverse farming operations require a greater variety of costly equipment, some of which is only used a few times a year. Cooperatively managed equipment sharing can help increase farm viability and local food economies, while supporting implementation of climate smart practices.
AB 552 would support equipment sharing programs that allow farmers to borrow or lease high-value equipment from regional agricultural centers. The program will fund both existing and new programs to purchase equipment, infrastructure, maintenance, and training, as well as some personnel costs. Eligible groups for the grants include Resource Conservation Districts, UC Cooperative Extension offices, Agricultural Commissioners, Tribal Communities & Governments, as well as appropriate non-profit organizations and farmer cooperatives.
“After the purchase of land, farm equipment is the largest capital investment for small farmers. These folks often have less cash-on-hand to invest in the equipment they need. My bill facilitates a heavy equipment tool sharing program where farmers can temporarily borrow the equipment they need. It is important that we protect our small agricultural operations because they are stewards of biological diversity, healthy soils, and many other conservation practices,” said Assemblymember Bennett.
Nathanael Gonzalez-Siemens, owner of Fat Uncle Farms, shared his experience saying, “Access to equipment was a major challenge when we started. We ultimately partnered with our farming neighbors to purchase and refurbish the implements we needed but couldn’t individually afford. We hope this bill will lead to the formation of more alliances like ours as it could really make a difference especially for beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers.” Gonzalez-Siemens also sits on the Natural and Working Lands Expert Advisory Committee which supports the implementation of AB 1757.
“As investments to scale healthy soils practices have grown, we’ve heard loud and clear from growers that access to equipment is a significant barrier,” said Sandra Nakagawa, CalCAN Policy Director. “This bill will help unlock the potential for small and mid-scale growers to access much-needed equipment to implement healthy soils practices such as no-till seed drills, wood chippers, and compost spreaders.”
“CAFF is thrilled to be co-sponsoring AB 552 by Assemblymember Bennett. Small and underserved farmers are struggling with increasing climate pressure, limited cash flow, and have a deep interest in transitioning to more cooperative stewardship. This program offers shared equipment to farmers that would have previously been inaccessible along with technical assistance on tools, equipment maintenance, and on farm cooperative models,” said Jamie Fanous, Policy Director at Community Alliance with Family Farmers.
Established in 2009, the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) is a statewide coalition that advances state and federal policy to realize the powerful climate solutions offered by sustainable and organic agriculture. CalCAN advocates for solutions that are diverse, synergistic and grounded in the economic and practical realities of farming and ranching. CalCAN works in close collaboration with a network of over 4,000 innovative farmers and ranchers, researchers, advisors, and other advocates to influence, amplify, and inspire change.
Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) currently represents over 8,000 small and mid-scale family farmers in California and have worked for 45 years to preserve family -scale agriculture and promote environmental sustainability. We work to build sustainable food and farming systems through policy, advocacy and on-the-ground programs that create more resilient family farms, communities, and ecosystems.
Sandra Nakagawa (CalCAN)
Jamie Fanous (CAFF)