Today's Law As Amended


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AB-823 Environment: California Farmland Protection Act.(2013-2014)



As Amends the Law Today


SECTION 1.
 This act shall be known, and may be cited, as the California Farmland Protection Act.

SEC. 2.

 Section 21095.5 is added to the Public Resources Code, to read:

21095.5.
 (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) California is the nation’s leader in food production and contributes significantly to both national and global food security.
(2) California agricultural production depends on soil, water, and climate conditions found in one of only five Mediterranean growing regions on Earth.
(3) Dependent on land and natural resources, California agriculture is uniquely vulnerable to global warming. Global warming poses a serious threat to California agriculture with rising temperatures, constrained water resources, increases in extreme weather events, reduced winter chilling hours, and rising sea levels.
(4) California agriculture is also uniquely positioned to provide climate benefits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Research funded by the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research program found that an acre of irrigated cropland emits 70 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions than an acre of urban land.
(5) California’s growing population places additional demands on both our food supply and on the development of agricultural land for nonagricultural purposes. An average of approximately 30,000 acres of California agricultural land is permanently converted to nonagricultural uses every year.
(6) The preservation of a maximum amount of the limited supply of agricultural land is necessary for conservation of the state’s natural resources, the maintenance of the agricultural economy of the state, and the assurance of an adequate, healthy, and nutritious food supply for the residents of this state and nation.
(7) California’s statewide land use planning priorities include the goal of protecting, preserving, and enhancing the state’s most valuable natural resources, including working landscapes such as farm, range, and forest lands as described in Section 65041.1 of the Government Code.
(8) Through the California Land Conservation Act of 1965 (Article 1 (commencing with Section 51200) of Chapter 7 of Part 1 of Division 1 of Title 5 of the Government Code), California has provided legal and financial incentives for farmers and ranchers to keep land in agricultural production, thereby discouraging the premature and unnecessary conversion of agricultural land to urban uses and discouraging discontiguous urban development patterns that unnecessarily increase the costs of community services.
(9) Since 1998, California has invested in the protection of agricultural lands near urban areas through the California Farmland Conservancy Program Act (Division 10.2 (commencing with Section 10200)) recognizing that conservation of these lands is necessary due to increasing development pressures and the effects of urbanization on farmland close to cities.
(10) This division requires the analysis and adoption of feasible mitigation for projects with significant effects on agricultural resources.
(11) Local entities play a vital role in regulating the use of land under their jurisdiction, including the conservation of agricultural lands through appropriate zoning and planning activities, as well as determinations of the potential environmental impacts of proposed land use changes.
(12) Despite the analysis and mitigation requirements of this division with respect to projects that result in agricultural land conversion, lead agencies do not consistently require feasible mitigation for agricultural land conversion impacts.
(13) The conversion of agricultural land, as defined in Section 56016 of the Government Code, to nonagricultural uses without appropriate mitigation negatively affects California’s economic development, natural resources, social and economic equity, and environmental quality.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to reaffirm the state’s intention, under this division, that a lead agency should impose all feasible mitigation measures to address the significant impacts on agricultural lands or resources from development and provide for the permanent protection of replacement agricultural land or resources through permanent agricultural conservation easements, which may constitute feasible mitigation under this division.

SEC. 3.

 Section 21095.6 is added to the Public Resources Code, to read:

21095.6.
 (a) (1) For purposes of this section, “development project” means a project, as defined in Section 21065, that involves residential, commercial, civic, industrial, or other infrastructure construction, or the use of property if the construction or use of land is unrelated to the agricultural use, is incompatible with either an agricultural or open-space use of the property, or substantially impairs the agricultural, open-space, or both uses of the property. Agricultural use, open-space use, or the acquisition of land or an interest in land is not a “development project.”
(2) For a “qualified entity” means a land trust, city, county, nonprofit organization, resource conservation district, special district, or regional park or open-space district or regional park or open-space authority that has the conservation of farmland among its stated purposes.
(b) A lead agency reviewing a development project pursuant to this division shall require that all feasible mitigation of the identified significant environmental impacts associated with the conversion of agricultural land be completed by the project applicant.
(c) The lead agency shall consider the permanent protection or replacement agricultural land as feasible mitigation for identified significant effects on agricultural land caused by a development project.
(d) An adopted mitigation measure that requires mitigation in the form of the permanent protection of agricultural land shall require at least one of the following:
(1) A grant in perpetuity to a qualified entity of an agricultural conservation easement that limits development that is inconsistent with agricultural uses and related activities to ensure the protection and stewardship of the agricultural productive capacity of the mitigation land.
(2) The project applicant to pay, or cause to be paid, a fee to the lead agency sufficient to acquire a perpetual agricultural conservation easement that meets all the requirements of this section. The lead agency may secure an easement through a payment to a qualified entity or to the Department of Conservation for the California Farmland Conservancy Program through a deposit to either the California Farmland Conservancy Program Fund, created pursuant to Section 10230, or the Farm, Ranch, and Watershed Account, created pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (c) of Section 10252.5, for the purposes of acquiring a perpetual agricultural conservation easement that meets all the requirements of this section.
(3) The project applicant to enter into a fee agreement with a qualified entity to acquire an agricultural conservation easement that meets all the requirements of this section.
(e) Any fees paid by a project applicant pursuant to paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (c) to comply with this section shall include the purchase price of an agricultural conservation easement, all transaction costs, and funding for a reasonable endowment for the purpose of monitoring, administering, legal defense, and all other services provided by the qualified entity to acquire, manage, and monitor the easement in perpetuity.
SEC. 4.
  No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because a local agency or school district has the authority to levy service charges, fees, or assessments sufficient to pay for the program or level of service mandated by this act, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code.