Asm. Robert Rivas and Coalition of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Advocates Announce Bond Legislation to Spur Economic Recovery and Combat Climate Change, Food Insecurity

Assembly Bill 125 will place the Equitable Economic Recovery, Healthy Food Access, Climate Resilient Farms and Worker Protection Bond Act before the voters in 2022

For immediate release:

Assembly Bill 125 will place the Equitable Economic Recovery, Healthy Food Access, Climate Resilient Farms and Worker Protection Bond Act before the voters in 2022

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and a broad coalition of agriculture, labor, food and environment advocates announced Assembly Bill 125, the Equitable Economic Recovery, Healthy Food Access, Climate Resilient Farms and Worker Protection Bond Act -- a $3 billion effort to accelerate California’s economic recovery and improve the state’s climate resilience while also increasing healthy food access, protecting essential food and farm system workers, investing in regional food processing and market infrastructure, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices.

“It is time for a better food system in our state -- one that is more resilient, more sustainable, and more just,” said Asm. Rivas, Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee. “The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities and inequalities in our state’s food supply and infrastructure. AB 125 is an investment in our future that will help spur our economy and rebuild our food and farming systems to be more equitable for all Californians, while protecting our environment and our farmlands, so California’s agricultural industry can remain competitive for many decades to come.”

“This bill will provide the resources that farmers and ranchers need to cut climate pollution and maintain a viable and sustainable agriculture in California,” said Jeanne Merrill, policy director of California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN), a sponsor of AB 125. “It’s time to invest in our food and farming infrastructure of the future.”

The bond will invest $3.122 billion over five years to accelerate California’s economic recovery from COVID-19, earmarking investments in four key areas:

  • Regional and local food processing, distribution, and market infrastructure, especially for the state’s most vulnerable communities.
  • Safety and well-being for farm and food system workers.
  • Combatting hunger and improving healthy food access.
  • Promoting sustainable agriculture and climate resilience.

“Creating a more equitable and resilient food system in California is vitally important to our nation’s future,” said Kara Heckert, California Regional Director, American Farmland Trust. “AB 125 represents an integrated approach to addressing the many challenges that California agriculture faces by protecting our precious agricultural land, promoting sustainable agriculture and uplifting new and existing farmers that have been historically underserved.”

Key funding earmarks

  • $477 million for Department of Food and Agriculture, including:
  • $175 million in grants for farmers and ranchers for the Healthy Soils Program to expand healthy soil practices to increase carbon capture and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • $100 million grants for Sustainable Water Enhancement and Efficient Program for farmers and ranchers to do water use efficiency projects on farms to protect surface and groundwater.
  • $273 million for Department of Conservation:
  • $122.5 million in grants for the California Farmland Conservancy Program for protection and enhancement of agricultural lands, including the acquisition of fee title or easements, that improve climate resilience, pollinator habitat, California native biodiversity, flood protection, or groundwater recharge.
  • $125 million for improvement of land access and tenure among socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers and beginning farmers and ranchers. Eligible projects include acquisition of fee title projects for the purposes of selling or leasing the acquired agricultural land to socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers and beginning farmers and ranchers.
  • $450 million for the Strategic Growth Council for grants to develop multi-unit, family housing for farmworkers.
  • $750 million to expand healthy food access and combat hunger, including:
  • $230 million to the Department of General Services for grants to improve school meals, including funding kitchens, meal prep, and dining infrastructure for school nutrition programs.
  • $150 million to Department of Social Services Emergency Food Assistance Program grants.
  • $270 million to the Department of Food and Agriculture for grants to improve regional food infrastructure to obtain and incentivize the procurement of healthy, California grown products for our communities who need it the most.
  • $ 100 million to the Department of Aging for grants to fund infrastructure to improve senior nutrition programs.
  • $570 million for the Department of Food and Agriculture for grants to enhance local food infrastructure - processing, cooling, and storage infrastructure, including increasing capacity for emergency food distribution and supply chain management for regional food economies.
  • $75 million for grants to help landowners and local agencies on the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
  • $200 million to the Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery for grants for compost infrastructure and food recovery projects.
  • $100 million to Department of Food and Agriculture for fairgrounds.

AB 125 is coauthored by Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), and the bill is sponsored by the Agriculture Institute of Marin, American Farmland Trust, California Certified Organic Farmers, California Climate & Agriculture Network, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Carbon Cycle Institute, Center for Food Safety, Central California Environmental Justice Network, Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Kiss the Ground, Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pesticide Action Network, Roots of Change, Sustainable Agriculture Education, and UFCW Western States Council.

 

What others are saying:

“With the introduction of AB 125, Assemblymember Rivas is once again demonstrating his commitment to the health and safety of farmworkers in his district and across California. This bill will take care of the workers who feed us and are the backbone of our agricultural economy.”

Cesar Lara, Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council

 

“The pandemic has exposed the ongoing vulnerability of our farmworker communities, especially indigenous immigrants who are so critical for growing and harvesting food for California and the nation. To take care of everyone, we need to take care of our farmworkers, and this bill will go a long way by providing them with safe housing, workplace protections and move us closer to a more resilient and equitable food system.”

Sarait Martinez, Executive Director, Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO)

 

"This bond represents the largest investment in sustainable and organic agriculture in the state's history. By strengthening supply chains, investing in technical assistance, and supporting the transition to organic, this bond equips current and future organic farmers with the tools they need to provide Californians with healthy, climate-friendly food."

—   Kelly Damewood, CEO, CCOF

 

"In short, AB 125 signals a new phase in the expanding movement to create a just, healthy, ecological food and farming system, one up to the challenges and needs of this century. The bond it creates gives me hope for our future because the investments it unleashes will support every community’s search for more resilience and critical tools to combat structural racism, climate chaos, economic stagnation and diet related disease.”

—   Michael Dimock, Director, Roots of Change

 

"Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen how important farmworkers are to California’s food supply and the life-threatening risks they undertake to put food on our tables. This measure will help California recover from the pandemic and make our state better by investing in essential workers for the future.”

—   Pete Maturino, Agricultural Division Director, UFCW Local 5

 

"A sustainable food and farm system is one in which agricultural workers live in community and work in safe, healthy environments—where farm work is treated as both essential and professional and compensated as such. The bond will provide for family housing for farmworkers and provide professional training opportunities for these hardworking folks who keep food on our tables."

—   Margaret Reeves, Senior Scientist, Pesticide Action Network

 

“Upgrading and replacing food and agriculture distribution and processing infrastructure – much of it over 60 years old – will create new economic development opportunities, especially for small, diverse businesses, as well as opportunities for increasing energy efficiency and local food system resilience. Interestingly, our underutilized state Fairgrounds are one place to begin.”

— Sibella Kraus, President, Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE)

 

"Californians are increasingly calling for food that's grown sustainably, without hazardous synthetic pesticides that can pollute air, water and soil and harm farmworking communities. This bond will provide the critical support farmers need as they make the shift to more ecological farming practices."

—   Sarah Aird, Co-Director, Californians for Pesticide Reform

 

 “A safe food supply requires an agricultural system where farmers use practices that reduce chemical use, promote soil health, and clean air and water. This bond will ensure much needed funds to help farmers transition to these practices while also increasing access to safe and healthy food for all Californians.”

—   Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director, Center for Food Safety

 

"Now, entering into a full year of the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers in California continue to struggle to keep their farm operational. This pandemic has resulted in unpredictable and the complete loss of markets, which have disproportionately impacted California's small-scale and historically underserved farmers of color. AB 125 is a valuable opportunity to support those who have been disproportionately impacted, bolster economic recovery, while supporting family farmers to implement climate resilient sustainable agriculture practices."

—   Paul Towers, Executive Director, Community Alliance with Family Farmers

 

“At the Agricultural Institute of Marin, we believe the best solutions solve multiple problems. AB 125 is solving the inter-related problems of the climate crisis, food insecurity, health risks among frontline workers, and lack of infrastructure for local and regional food systems. We can no longer be passive, nor can we work in siloes. We have a social responsibility to build food systems that put small-to-mid-sized farmers and farmworkers at the heart of these solutions while creating access to healthy, culturally-relevant, and traditional foods in a way that empowers communities of color and tribes.”

—   Andy Naja-Riese, CEO, Agricultural institute of Marin