Assembly Bill 350 seeks to help farmers and ranchers navigate the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The SGMA assistance bill would provide funding for technical support for producers to help with compliance. Introduced by Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua, the bill is being sponsored by American Farmland Trust (AFT). The legislation was passed out of the Assembly Agriculture Committee with a unanimous vote and is being heard in the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee beginning April 26.
“We recognize that there will be individual farmers and ranchers that may not understand exactly what their current utilization may be on their property or what the potential could be,” said Katie Patterson, AFT California Policy Manager. “By having AB 350 put in place, there would be the opportunity for folks to have a conservation management plan and the technical support provided to them to look at what the future outcomes for their property could be and how to keep it economically viable as possible.”
The bill would require the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to establish a three-year grant program to fund technical assistance support. CDFA would develop guidelines and criteria for the administration of grants. At least 25 percent of grant funds directed at serving socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
“CDFA has experience in putting out technical assistance grants to organizations that work directly with farmers and ranchers,” Patterson noted. “We felt like they would be a perfectly aligned partner in doing this outreach and really meeting the needs and screening the technical service providers for this purpose.”
A technical assistance provider would be established in each of the eight counties in the San Joaquin Valley. Patterson described the San Joaquin Valley as “ground-zero” for the implementation of SGMA, where this is significant overlap with disadvantaged communities. “Any benefits that allow farmers to maintain this working landscape in agriculture is good for the economy and good for general public health because we want to avoid any cataclysmic land abandonment that could occur,” said Patterson.