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Newsom’s budget includes funding for sustainable ag

Tim Hearden WFP-hearden-calif-capitol-0619.JPG
The California state Capitol in Sacramento.
There’s money for new equipment, pollinator habitat projects and alternatives to agricultural burning.

The Almond Alliance is lauding California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s inclusion of bee habitat projects and funding for growers in the revised budget proposal he unveiled recently.

The $267.8 billion budget that Newsom submitted on Friday, May 14 would include $213 million for an agricultural equipment incentive program, $150 million for the Alternatives to Agricultural Burning Incentive Program and $30 million in pollinator habitat funding, the organization notes.

The FARMER equipment program help fund purchases of cleaner agriculture-related equipment like harvesting equipment, heavy-duty trucks, pump engines, tractors, and other equipment used on farms, the Almond Alliance explains.

Agencies including the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District have helped farms pay for thousands of pieces of new equipment including electric utility vehicles, tractor replacements, and the electrification of irrigation pumps, according to the almond growers’ advocacy group.

Alternatives to burning

The burn-alternatives program will help growers with such things as whole-orchard and whole-vineyard recycling, in which growers chip removed trees and vines and push the chips into the soil.

Growers are seeking alternatives to open burning after the California Air Resources Board recently banned the practice. Newsom’s budget will sustain and expand the alternatives project, which is run by the San Joaquin Valley air district.

“We communicated the challenges faced by smaller almond growers with chipping, shredding, and incorporation of orchard removals and prunings, the need to expand the existing alternative program to address grower demand along with ways to facilitate expansion of the fleet of orchard removal and soil incorporation equipment needed to provide the service,” said Elaine Trevino, president of the Almond Alliance.

Related: Big boost for ag in revised California budget

The pollinator funding will provide technical assistance, outreach, and grants to incentivize participation in state and federal conservation programs where pollinator habitat and forage is established.

The Almond Alliance and other groups sponsored Assembly Bill 391 by Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua, D-Stockton, which builds on Newsom’s executive order earlier this year calling on the state to conserve 30% of habitat for biodiversity by 2030. Part of the effort will be to expand pollinator habitat and forage on farms and ranches. Newsom’s budget would fund the bill.

“This funding will help protect and grow our state’s pollinating animal populations by building upon and enhancing programs that support their habitats and forage,” Villapudua said. “These significant developments will help to sustain our food supplies while advancing our biodiversity and climate resiliency goals. We are excited to bring this aid to the state’s small family farms in a manner that simultaneously works to protect our environment.”

State windfall

Newsom's "California Comeback Plan" would include a boost for numerous state programs related to agriculture, including an additional $641 million over two years to the state Department of Food and Agriculture for a total of $926 million, according to the CDFA.

The increase is courtesy of a $100 billion surplus fueled by surging tax revenue from a pandemic-enriched tech industry and federal coronavirus aid, according to media reports.

Almond Alliance officials say they’ll work with the Legislature to ensure that the enhanced benefits for agriculture remain in the final budget.

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