Drought-threatened Family Farmers React to Governor’s Proposed Budget

Today California Governor Gavin Newsom released a record-breaking state budget proposal that includes significant investments to address climate change, support sustainable agriculture, and expand access to healthy school food. Unfortunately, the Governor’s budget does not yet articulate how to deliver on those challenges for the state’s small-scale farmers in ways that meet the moment around drought resilience and racial equity in agriculture. 

“As we witnessed over the past year, drought threats continue to grow and impact many of the state’s smallest farmers,” said Dave Runsten, senior policy analyst at CAFF. “Through CAFF’s survey of small farmers this fall, we estimate the need at $40-50 million for relief, Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) engagement, and dry farming education. The Governor’s budget proposes $750 million to tackle the drought, but only includes $5 million in drought relief for small farms. We urge Governor Newsom to help close the gap through other near-term funding or through the process that will allocate the proposed $250 million drought contingency fund.”

Unfortunately, the Governor’s proposed 2022-23 budget lacks the investments necessary to address historic inequities in California agriculture. Since the passage of the Farmer Equity Act in 2017, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has taken meaningful steps to address these inequities. However, continued investments are needed to expand the program and to live up to the Governor’s ambitions around equity that are evident in other parts of his proposed budget. 

“We applaud Governor Newsom’s proposed investments in farm-to-school programs and to address climate change,” said Jamie Fanous, CAFF’s senior policy advocate and organizer. “But California’s small-scale and historically underserved farmers still face serious challenges, particularly drought. This budget lacks sufficient funding to keep family farmers afloat. CAFF will keep pushing for meaningful and equitable drought relief as well as other critical food system infrastructure needs.”

Other important elements in the proposed budget that support family farmers include: 

  • $85 million for CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program 
  • $25 million for CDFA’s State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program (SWEEP)  
  • An additional $30 million to CDFA’s Farm to School Program to establish farm to school demonstration projects 
  • $450 million from Prop 98 to upgrade school kitchen infrastructure and equipment to incorporate more fresh, minimally processed California-grown foods in school meals.