Jeanne Merrill is the Policy Director for the California Climate and Agriculture Network.

Governor Brown’s Budget Re-Invests in Climate Smart Ag Programs, With a Catch

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In his budget released on January 10th, Governor Jerry Brown proposed on-going investments in climate smart agriculture programs, including the new Healthy Soils Program. The budget proposes to maintain current funding levels. However, there’s a catch. The funding will only become available if the legislature votes by two-thirds to extend the cap-and-trade program beyond the year 2020 when the program is set to expire. Why the catch?

Understanding California’s Climate Change Laws

The source of funding for California’s climate change programs – from home weatherization, clean car rebates to climate smart ag programs – is the auction revenue from the cap-and-trade program. Under cap-and-trade, large emitters of greenhouse gas emissions – industrial facilities, oil refineries, large food processors, etc. – are required to hold allowances that equal their greenhouse gas emissions minus any reductions they have to do overtime. A portion of those allowances is sold by the state at auction. Those proceeds, generating over $3 billion so far, are then invested in a diversity of programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing multiple benefits to our communities.

Last year, the legislature voted to extend the climate change law to the year 2030, requiring greenhouse gas emission reductions of 40 percent below 1990 levels. But in doing so, they did not explicitly extend the cap-and-trade program, which is controversial. There is a current lawsuit filed by big business that claims the program is an illegal tax. Others are concerned that the program’s allowance of trading of credits and allowances allows for speculation on the carbon market that does not ultimately lead to the desired outcome of reduced greenhouse gas emissions and related pollution reductions in California.

Can a new cap-and-trade program be fashioned that still allows for investments in climate change programs while addressing the concerns by many about the program’s impacts? 

Climate Smart Ag Programs Plans for 2017

Meanwhile, several climate agriculture programs are getting underway for 2017. 

Beginning in March, the California Department of Food and Agriculture will hold public meetings on the newly proposed Alternative Manure Management Program, which will support non-digester methods for reducing methane emissions in the dairy and livestock industries. See here.

We anticipate a new request for proposals for the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) any day now. More here.

New program guidelines for the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP) will likely come out sometime in February. We will post more on this as details become available. See here.

You can find out more about the full suit of climate change programs at some upcoming meetings. The Air Resources Board, the state agency responsible for overseeing all of the climate change programs, recently announced community meetings to discuss the current climate programs. See here.

This is an edited version of an article that appeared on the California Climate & Agriculture Network website that appeared on Jan. 17, 2017. 

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