Assembly Agriculture Committee Holds Hearing on Farmer Equity Act, Expanding Opportunity for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

SACRAMENTO – Today, Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, hosted an informational hearing on implementation of the Farmer Equity Act (2017) to explore how the State can better support socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and ensure agriculture is an accessible and profitable profession for the next generation.

“Today’s hearing is an important step in ensuring equity for all of California’s farmers and ranchers and in continuing the mission of the Farmer Equity Act,” said Chairman Rivas. “California agriculture is the most diverse in the world – both in terms of the number of commodities produced here – but also in terms of the incredibly diverse array of farmers and ranchers working hard to bring those commodities to market. This diversity is one of our foremost strengths, and it is something we should be celebrating and supporting.  In order to keep California agriculture thriving, we must continue to invest in the long-term prosperity of all of California’s farmers and ranchers.”

Witnesses who testified to the committee included:

  • Thea Rittenhouse, Department of Food and Agriculture, Farmer Equity Advisor
  • Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UC Cooperative Extension, Small Farms and Specialty Crops Advisor in Fresno and Tulare counties
  • Michael Yang, UC Cooperative Extension, Hmong Agricultural Assistant in Fresno County
  • Patricia Rodriguez, Rodriguez Farms Inc, Co-Owner in Castroville
  • Doria Robinson, Urban Tilth, Executive Director in Richmond
  • Mai Nguyen, Sonoma Country Farmer,  Chair of the Asian American Farmers Alliance and Co-Chair of Minnow

“I want to thank Chairman Rivas for holding this hearing on the Farmer Equity Act,” said Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), author of the Farmer Equity Act. “California feeds our nation and the world with its rich diversity of agricultural products. Its future depends on the young farmers who reflect the ethnic and cultural diversity of California’s people. In winning passage of the Farmer Equity Act of 2017, in partnership with the Department of Food and Agriculture, we’ve created true representation of, and assistance for, this growing population of farmers. We now have a State Farm Equity Office bringing this community together, and we’re getting them real help with efforts like the Governor’s budget proposal for $3.35 million to fund assistance for farmers in need of federal COVID relief.”

Currently, one in five of California’s farmers is considered a socially disadvantaged farmer – including farmers who are African American, American Indian, Alaskan native, Hispanic, Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander. Historically, these farmers of color have been subjected to an assortment of discriminatory practices -- some of which still exist today.

“There are many challenges for small-scale, socially disadvantaged farmers that state agencies can help to address, such as barriers limiting access to resources and ‘one size fits all’ regulatory structures that can disproportionately burden their farming operations,” said Dahlquist-Willard of the UC Cooperative Extension (UCANR). “UCANR small farms advisors are excited to work with agencies and community-based partners to improve equity across state programs.”

For more information on how the state is helping our socially disadvantaged farmers, or to view CDFA’s 2020 “Farmer Equity Report,” visit: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/farmerresources/