The Local Food Producers Bill, if passed, will help identify and create a legal definition for “Local Food Producers”, independently-owned farms operated on less than 500 acres who sell direct to their local community. Join us today in calling on our state leaders to pass this bill!
California agriculture has been consolidating rapidly due to the increasing involvement of hedge funds and other investment groups, with farm operations overseen by farm management companies. Many of these agricultural operations, focused on maximizing returns to their investors, rely on extractive models that prioritize exports rather than investing in the sustainability of our communities and ecosystems. With 50% of California cropland owned by 5% of the total landowners, and 37% of land owned by non-farmers and rented or leased, it is becoming increasingly evident that the foundations of our agricultural system are not owned by individuals in our rural communities but rather by large companies and non-farmer investors.
Climate change is worsening many of these problems. Increased temperatures increase pest pressure and decrease crop resilience, affecting production costs and yields. At the same time, food producing small-scale and underserved farmers are losing their ability to farm due to the lack of water caused by recent droughts, which has been exacerbated by the drilling of deep wells on neighboring large-scale farms. Farmers are also at risk from wildfires and floods that worsen each year, damaging or destroying their crops, infrastructure and homes.
Many Californians treasure the unique opportunities California offers to build year-round relationships with local farmers by visiting or purchasing food directly from their local farmers at Farmers markets, community supported agriculture boxes, and farm or field stands. These direct market opportunities are important parts of the fabric of California’s local communities and culture. California agriculture still includes tens of thousands of small-scale farms, many of which grow produce that is consumed locally by diverse cultural communities and that are important for the economic well-being and food security of these communities.
In the current era of climate change local food production cannot be taken for granted– water scarcity and high land prices result in the loss of at least 4 farms a day. But these local farms are essential to California’s quality of life and to maintaining local food supplies and they should be identified and quantified in order to support the protection of the local food system.
AB 1197 (Hart) will define and identify local food producers. The definition of local food producer would complement, and not replace, the “socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher” or “limited resource” definitions currently in the food and agriculture code. Measures would be taken to protect the privacy of local food producers who wish to remain anonymous.
The definition also aligns with many existing programs by limiting the farm size to 500 or fewer acres, which captures medium- and small-scale farms that are experiencing the highest pressures and are most in need of state support. We understand this excludes many local ranches, but because of their unique challenges and business operations, other efforts should be pursued to better understand and support their role in maintaining local food supplies.
Once defined and identified, CAFF would work with these farms and with other partners to support and expand local food production. CAFF already works with family farmers to develop direct markets for their products. This map would assist in that work. In addition, relevant future grants programs could be designed to support local food suppliers.