Today's Law As Amended

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AB-350 Agriculture: Cannella Environmental Farming Act of 1995: technical assistance grant program: groundwater conservation planning.(2021-2022)

As Amends the Law Today

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) In 2014, the Legislature passed and Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1739, Senate Bill 1168, and Senate Bill 1319 of the 2013–14 Regular Session, collectively known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (Part 2.74 (commencing with Section 10720) of Division 6 of the Water Code) requires governments and water agencies of high- and medium-priority basins to halt overdraft and bring groundwater basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge.
(b) The San Joaquin Valley alone is comprised of approximately 5,000,000 acres of irrigated agriculture, which equates to over 20 percent of its local economy. The implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is anticipated by the Public Policy Institute of California to transition an estimated 300,000 to 1,200,000 acres away from agricultural production in the San Joaquin Valley over the next two decades.
(c) Landowners across the state will be faced with difficult decisions during the implementation of this state program, and not all are equipped to make informed land transition strategies on potentially affected parcels. The absence of technical assistance underscores the pressing need to align support for landowners to survey and create individual management plans that specifically address the impacts and opportunities on agricultural lands. Technical advisers, or ombudspersons, can work with landowners to evaluate current and future agricultural resources and create plans that optimize and address continued economic viability and alternative management of their properties in critically overdrafted locations, thereby creating more economic certainty for the regions that are so heavily dependent on the agricultural economy.
(d) Disadvantaged communities have long been disproportionately affected by California’s distressed water management system, with issues such as groundwater overdraft and pollution. Throughout the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation process, groundwater sustainability agencies have a responsibility to “consider the interests of beneficial uses and users,” including disadvantaged communities, pursuant to Section 10723.2 of the Water Code.
(e) Among those hardest impacted by the climate change crisis and subsequent drought are socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, who are made more vulnerable due to generations of discriminatory lending and market practices and ongoing barriers that prevent them from accessing land and culturally relevant technical support. The investment of public funds pursuant to this act will result in public, environmental, social, and economic benefits and address inequities in our farming systems.

SEC. 2.

 Section 567 is added to the Food and Agricultural Code, to read:

 (a) (1) Upon an appropriation of funds for the purposes of this section, the department shall establish and administer a three-year grant program to fund technical assistance to support landowners located in a critically overdrafted basin in reaching water use reduction goals established pursuant to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act set forth in Part 2.74 (commencing with Section 10720) of Division 6 of the Water Code. This grant program shall fund one or more technical assistance providers as determined by the department in each critically overdrafted basin. The purpose of providing this technical assistance is to encourage innovation and alternative economically viable approaches to agricultural land management to prevent unnecessary fallowing. The department may use the guidelines established pursuant to Section 570 to administer this grant program.
(2) The grant program established pursuant this section is separate and distinct from the Healthy Soils Program established pursuant to Section 569.
(b) In developing and administering the grant program, the department shall do all of the following:
(1) Establish criteria and guidelines for technical assistance providers to qualify to receive grants to provide the technical assistance under this section. The criteria and guidelines shall require technical assistance providers to demonstrate previous experience providing agricultural-related technical assistance directly to individuals or entities in a critically overdrafted basin.
(2) Establish a process for prospective technical assistance providers to apply to the department to receive grants to provide technical assistance.
(3) Determine what type of entity may qualify as a technical assistance provider, including, but not limited to, nonprofit organizations, the University of California Cooperative Extension, and local agencies, including resource conservation districts.
(4) Establish a process for determining how to distribute grant funds to technical assistance providers in a way that ensures equitable access to technical assistance throughout critically overdrafted basins.
(5) Ensure at least 25 percent of the grant program funds are used to provide technical assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
(6) Review grant program applications from technical assistance providers and recommend grant awardees to the secretary.
(7) Allow direct technical assistance costs and a percentage of overhead expenses, to be determined by the secretary, to be funded as part of the grant awards.
(8) Establish requirements that the technical assistance providers shall comply with when providing technical assistance or acting pursuant to this section.
(9) Prioritize technical assistance for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and farmers and ranchers in disadvantaged communities identified pursuant to Section 39711 of the Health and Safety Code.
(c) The technical assistance provided as a result of the grant program shall be provided as follows:
(1) Directly to landowners in a critically overdrafted basin.
(2) To design, develop, and implement on-farm conservation plans for agricultural lands that are at risk of fallowing due to water shortages. The purpose of the on-farm conservation plans is to recommend how to transition agricultural lands to lower water intensive uses, such as adjustments to crop type, irrigation efficiency improvements, and water infiltration practices, while still being agriculturally productive and avoiding permanent fallowing where possible.
(d) The technical assistance provided as a result of the grant program may include, but is not limited to, conducting initial outreach to landowners, assisting landowners in determining whether they are eligible to receive technical assistance through the program, linking landowners with existing state and federal funding programs, and assisting landowners with on-farm conservation plan design, development, and implementation.
(e) The secretary shall award a grant to one or more technical assistance providers in each critically overdrafted basin.
(f) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:
(1) “Critically overdrafted basin” means a basin identified as critically overdrafted by the Department of Water Resources.
(2) “Landowner” means an owner of the land that would benefit from the technical assistance or a lessee or other entity designated by the lessor or owner as having the authority to implement an on-farm conservation plan on the land that would benefit from the technical assistance.
(3) “On-farm conservation plan” means the planning document that describes the natural and agricultural resources of the landowner’s property, documents practices used to protect existing water resources, identifies opportunities to maintain or improve the quality of natural resources on the property, and prioritizes management practices according to the landowner’s needs, goals, and timelines.
(4) “Socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers” has the same meaning as defined in Section 512.
(5) “Technical assistance provider” means an entity that receives grant funds from the department and provides technical assistance to landowners.