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AB-2550 Grazing land: California Conservation Ranching Incentive Program.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 02/19/2020 09:00 PM
AB2550:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 2550


Introduced by Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia

February 19, 2020


An act to add Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 10279) to Division 10.2 of the Public Resources Code, relating to grazing land.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 2550, as introduced, Eduardo Garcia. Grazing land: California Conservation Ranching Incentive Program.
Existing law establishes the California Farmland Conservancy Program Act, to be administered generally by the Department of Conservation, and provides that it is the intent of the act to, among other things, encourage voluntary, long-term private stewardship of agricultural lands by offering landowners financial incentives, encourage local land use planning for orderly and efficient urban growth and conservation of agricultural land, and encourage improvements to enhance long-term sustainable agricultural uses. The act establishes the California Farmland Conservancy Program Fund and requires, except as provided, moneys in the fund, upon appropriation, to be used for the purposes of the California Farmland Conservancy Program, which include, among other things, the purchase of agricultural conservation easements, fee title acquisition grants, and land improvement and planning grants.
This bill would establish the California Conservation Ranching Incentive Program as a separate component of the California Farmland Conservancy Program. The bill would authorize the Director of Conservation to, subject to appropriation, enter into contracts for an initial term of 3 years with nonpublic entities that are owners of record or lessees of productive rangelands, grazing lands, or grasslands that are determined by the director to be important for the conservation of grassland birds, soil health, and biodiversity. The bill would require these contracts to include an agreement by the owner and any lessee to restore, enhance, and protect the grassland habitat character of the land subject to the contract and to require the Department of Conservation to pay a specified amount to the owner or lessee for undertaking conservation obligations under the contract. The bill would create the California Conservation Ranching Incentive Program Account in the California Farmland Conservancy Program Fund and would make funds deposited in the account available for expenditure, upon appropriation, to the department for purposes of the program.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 10279) is added to Division 10.2 of the Public Resources Code, to read:
CHAPTER  6. California Conservation Ranching Incentive Program

10279.
 (a) The California Conservation Ranching Incentive Program is hereby created subject to the requirements of this chapter. The director shall administer this program as a separate component of the California Farmland Conservancy Program.
(b) Subject to appropriation for purposes of this chapter, the director may enter into contracts with nonpublic entities that are owners of record or lessees of productive rangelands, grazing lands, or grasslands that are determined by the director to be important for the conservation of grassland birds, soil health, and biodiversity.
(c) The director shall give priority to contracts that have the greatest potential for restoring, enhancing, and protecting high-quality grasslands and grassland habitat, especially those that are at risk of destruction, drastic modification, or significant curtailment of habitat values. The director may give priority to contracts that provide additional environmental cobenefits, including cobenefits to other species or natural resource concerns such as climate resilience and stewardship of healthy soils.
(d) The director may distribute a portion of the funds they receive from the California Conservation Ranching Incentive Program Account, created pursuant to Section 10279.4, through grants to nonprofits for purposes specified in this chapter.
(e) For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions apply:
(1) “Productive rangelands, grazing lands, and grasslands” means land that is dominated by grasses that may include oak woodlands, mixed forests, vernal pools, riparian areas, and other wetlands that are grazed by domestic livestock or wild animals.
(2) “Program” means the California Conservation Ranching Incentive Program.

10279.1.
 Each contract entered into pursuant to Section 10279 shall be for an initial term of three years and shall include all of the following:
(a) The designation of the owner of record and any lessee, and the legal description and the assessor’s parcel number of the land subject to the contract.
(b) An agreement by the owner and any lessee to restore, enhance, and protect the grassland habitat character of the described land in accordance with a management plan that is adopted by another agency or entity and that is approved by the director. In the absence of a management plan, the owner or any lessee shall work with the director to create a management plan as part of the agreement. For purposes of this subdivision, a “management plan” includes, but is not limited to, a conservation or grazing plan adopted by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, a carbon farm plan, or a habitat management plan.
(c) Specification of the amount and date in each year that the payment is to be made by the department to the owner or lessee, which shall be calculated at the rate or rates that the director determines to be fair and reasonable in consideration of the obligations undertaken by the owner or lessee.
(d) A requirement that the owner or lessee do either of the following:
(1) Refund to the state all payments received under the contract plus interest at the legal rate, as specified in Section 3289 of the Civil Code, upon the owner’s or lessee’s violation of the contract if the director determines that the violation warrants termination of the contract and the director terminates the contract.
(2) Make refunds or accept payment adjustments that the director determines are appropriate, not to exceed the total amount paid by the state to the owner or lessee in the preceding calendar year plus interest at the legal rate, as specified in Section 3289 of the Civil Code, if the director determines that the violation by the owner or lessee does not warrant termination of the contract.
(e) A requirement that the department reduce the amount of any payment to the owner or lessee under subdivision (c) by an amount equal to the portion of any payment that the department determines to be in compensation for the same obligation undertaken by the owner under any other governmental program.
(f) An authorization for the department to monitor compliance with the contract with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, a county agricultural commissioner, or other appropriate agency, entity, or person to monitor compliance with the contract, and a requirement that the owner or lessee allow access for the monitoring.
(g) Any additional provisions that the director determines are desirable to effectuate the purposes of the program or to facilitate its administration.

10279.2.
 If during the contract period the owner or lessee is divested of the use of the grassland habitat subject to the contract, the owner or lessee shall notify the department concurrent with that divestment. Any unearned payment shall immediately be refunded by the owner or lessee to the department and future payments under the agreement shall be void.

10279.3.
 The director and the owner or lessee may mutually agree to modify the terms and conditions of a contract under this chapter as the director may determine to be desirable to carry out the purposes of, or to facilitate administration of, the program.

10279.4.
 (a) The California Conservation Ranching Incentive Program Account is hereby created in the California Farmland Conservancy Program Fund.
(b) Funds deposited in the California Conservation Ranching Incentive Program Account shall be made available for expenditure, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to the department. These funds shall be expended solely for the purposes set forth in this chapter.
(c) An amount that equals not more than 5 percent of the funds allocated for the program may be used to pay the administrative costs of the program and up to 10 percent of funds allocated may be used for planning and monitoring necessary to ensure the success of the program. An amount that equals not more than 20 percent of the funds allocated for the program may be used to support entities to assist the department in the design, outreach, implementation, and monitoring of the program and for direct technical assistance to owners or lessees for enrollment or implementation of the program.