Gov. Signs Historic Budget: Success for Family Farmers in the Capitol!

Today, Governor Newsom signed a $15 billion climate budget package passed earlier this month by the California State Legislature, the largest in California’s history aimed at investing in the needs of California’s communities. 

These investments range from broadband infrastructure, to housing for farm workers, as well as significant climate change efforts through investments in the various California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) climate smart agriculture programs. These most recent budget bills target strategies to build a more resilient food & farming system see our CalCAN coalition’s recent blog post summarizing the successes made by the AB 125 bond coalition (which CAFF fiscally sponsors). 

This year’s budget was a success for California’s family farmers. Amidst a devastating pandemic where many small and mid-sized farms lost significant revenue, made only worse by a historic drought, CAFF set out to ensure these family farmers could stay afloat by advocating for critical investments and a campaign to #rescuesmallfarms in crisis. During this year’s legislative cycle, we advocated for small business emergency relief funding, culturally appropriate technical assistance, new farmer training, as well as tool sharing and supply chain infrastructure. 

“The pandemic has resulted in the unpredictability and loss of markets, which has had a disproportionate impact on California’s small-scale farmers; particularly historically underserved farmers of color. Food system reform increasingly calls for more regionalized food systems, which in turn provide greater resilience in times of natural or public health disaster.”

Successes in Sacramento:
  • Language & Culturally Appropriate Technical Assistance Program for Underserved Farmers ($13.4M): With this funding, trusted and experienced organizations can provide on-the ground support to help farmers with language and culturally appropriate technical assistance, including assistance with Coronavirus relief funding through the incoming American Rescue Plan.
  • New & Beginning Farmer Training and Farm Manager Apprenticeships Program ($10M): Support for regional farmer training centers that provide culturally-relevant assistance for beginning as well as socially-disadvantaged farmers. These programs will support the growth of food systems jobs and the local farming economy.
  • Farm to Community Food Hub Program ($15M):  Funds from the passage of AB 1009 will launch a new pilot program aimed at developing new food hubs across California. These food hubs will prioritize the procurement and distribution of produce from small & historically-underserved farmers and ranchers in California! 
  • Biologically Integrated Farming Systems, BIFS ($2M): To promote sustainable pest management in California, the BIFs program establishes on-farm demonstration projects, provides technical assistance, and fosters farmer-to-farmer information exchange to support small-scale producers in implementing holistic practices to manage pest pressure with less chemical inputs. 

Other valuable food & agriculture programs CAFF supported: 

  • Urban agriculture
  • California farm-to-school program 
  • State water efficiency & enhancement program (SWEEP)
  • Healthy soils program
  • Farm worker housing.

Still work to be done:

During an Assembly Ag hearing on the drought last month, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (AD-04, Winters) who runs an 80-acre farm with her brothers, said, “If you’re a big corporation, you have a lot of other assets. But when you’re a small family farm, you’re just trying to make ends meet.”

Farmer Jeff Main & his daughter Alison also spoke during the Assembly Hearing on the drought expressing concern about the uncertain future of their farm Good Humus if this drought continues and larger operations continue to go unregulated. “Eerily similar to earlier parts of history where small family farms’ survival is dependent on factors and powers much larger than theirs; the power on both sides of our fence is beyond our comprehension.” Ali Main also noted, “My future at Good Humus is dependent on the action of leadership to prioritize the needs of small family farms.”

Unfortunately, the work is never done. Although CAFF did see many critical investments in California’s family farmers, we are in the midst of an unprecedented drought which has led many farmers needing emergency aid and investments in their farmers in order to remain viable. We continue to call on state officials to #rescuesmallfarms from this devastating drought by ensuring intended investments the Legislature made in programs like SWEEP water assistance and California Underserved and Small Producer financial relief program reach those most impacted by the drought. Additional investments and support will be required at all levels of government and CAFF will continue urging lawmakers to step up to meet the challenge.