Roots of Change supports legislative and regulatory efforts that help reawaken a healthy, equitable, and resilient food system fit for the 21st century. Our advocacy efforts are primarily focused on legislation and administrative rule making by state agencies that impact the food system in California, and informed by our networks. ROC’s focus on the system means that the scope of our policy priorities are broad, and includes agriculture, health, sustainability, food justice, labor, and equity issues of the food system at large.
Here are the bills that ROC is tracking actively in 2017: Entries below note if we support, support with amendments or are currently tracking closely because the bill is significant. Stay tuned to this page to see additions of important bills and changes on our positions on the bills listed below.
AB 465 Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones. Author: Phil Ting, San Francisco. This is an update and improvement of a previous ROC supported bill AB 551, passed three years ago. This measure extends the time before sunset of the tax break for urban landowners who commit their parcels for use by urban farmers and gardeners. If AB 465 passes the incentive will be in place until 2029 instead of 2019. Landowners must commit their land for five years in order to receive the property tax rates offered to parcels zoned for agricultural use. The bill also redefines those regions of the state that are eligible to establish this reduced property tax program. Currently, many regions that have high demand for urban agriculture projects are excluded because they are not “urban“ enough. We vigorously support this update of an important innovation in zoning policy that increases healthy food access and educates the public on the challenge of food production.
AB 1348 Farmer Equity Act of 2017. Author: Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Northwest Sacramento. This bill inserts language into the California Food and Agriculture Code that highlights the need for historically underserved and socially disadvantaged farmers to be included in farm and ranch programs overseen by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. It would require the department appoint an official to ensure compliance. A similar law was passed at the federal level after USDA was found to have systematically excluded African American, Native Americans, Asian and Latino farmers for generations. ROC supports the bill because it highlights that we do not live in a post racial world yet and that it is incumbent upon our government to ensure fair and equitable access to programs that promote the success of our farmers and ranchers. See press release from PANNA regarding this bill.
ROC Supports with Amendments
AB 626 Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations. Authors: Eduardo Garcia, East Riverside and Joaquin Arambula, West Fresno. Currently, environmental health regulations only allow baked goods from home kitchens to be sold. This bill will broaden what foods can be prepared in home kitchens and sold to clients. ROC sees this as a way to increase incomes and make healthier food more accessible in places where unemployment or underemployment is high that healthy access low. There is legitimate concern within the food movement that third party technology platforms to support start-up, management and sales could exploit these small home-based businesses, like Uber has done to drivers. Therefore, ROC has submitted letters of support with specific amendments for the bill. We request changes in language to limit fees that third parties may charge as well as an oversight period that would require stakeholders to report back to the Legislature and Public Health Department after 24 months of the bills enforcement to ensure fair treatment of workers and safety of the public.
AB 1003 California Community Health Fund. Author: Richard Bloom, Santa Monica. This bill has supplanted AB 1352 the Healthy California Fund bill, which ROC co-sponsored in 2015-16 with the Coalition for a Health California. The new bill is a stripped down version of the previous language. ROC has offered a letter of support, but could withdraw support if the bill does not specify the amount and pathways to funding for community food projects and socially disadvantaged farmers who are seeking to support healthy food access for communities most impacted by obesity, Type II Diabetes and other diet related disease. ROC believes that with the previous bill, half the revenue should flow to community-based organizations through grant programs, not to bureaucracies alone. We do not expect AB 1003 to pass in 2017, but instead to be taken up at a series of hearings chaired by Mr. Bloom in cities across the state. ROC will be fully engaged in shaping the evolving language of the bill to maintain its funding of important food system innovations. We will hold listening sessions to supply
SB 54 Law Enforcement: Sharing Data (aka Sanctuary State Act). Author: Pro Tem of the Senate, Kevin De Leon, Northeast Los Angeles. The law would prohibit state law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities seeking to deport undocumented people. ROC has written a letter of support, but subsequent information has led us to question whether this is the best approach to protecting food chain workers. California may be more easily targeted for exclusion from federal funding with this legislation in place. Therefore, although not withdrawing support, we are following the debate to understand the full consequences and impacts on federal funding for health, nutrition, environmental and transportation programs if the bill is passed and becomes law. We do question whether the Governor would sign the bill if it is placed on his desk.
SB 300 Warming Label on Sugary Beverages. Bill Monning, Watsonville. This bill would place a warning label on sugar sweetened beverages to ensure consumers realize the risks of obesity, Type II Diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and numerous other health risks that comes with drinking these beverages.
Here are the bills that ROC supported and/or tracked in 2016 in priority order:
AB 2782 Healthy California Fund, Richard Bloom (Santa Monica)
ROC co-sponsors this bill that will, when passed, levy a health impact fee on distributors of sugary beverages to generate up to $650 million per year for community food production, nutrition incentives and improved school meals and nutrition education. We believe this is the best way to fund food justice, local food systems and diabetes prevention programs. A small, but powerful coalition of sweetened beverage industry defenders lobbied to kill the bill before it could he heard in the Assembly Health Committee. Be will fight on because we have the health data, moral and ethical arguments that will eventually prevail.
SB 3 Minimum Wage, Mark Leno (San Francisco)
This bill forged an elegant solution to a complex problem accommodating the concerns of many interests. It raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour in steps between now and January 1, 2022. If a business has less than 26 full time employees, the phase-in is delayed by one year. After 2023, increases will be pegged to the Consumer Price Index. The governor can slow increases during economic downturns. Passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.
SB 1350 Agriculture Lands: Greenhouse Gases: Healthy Soils Program, Lois Wolk (Davis)
While the bill itself did not pass, it influenced the Legislature and Governor to appropriate $7.5 million for California’s soil. These funds will provide famers with incentives to compost, reduce nitrogen fertilizer use, plant trees and shrubs as hedgerows, and use other practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon and conserve water. The California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) and Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) led an input process involving California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and Roots of Change (ROC) that strengthened language authorizing the program.
SB 1247 Ag Innovations Zones, Hannah-Beth Jackson (Santa Barbara)
The bill would have provided voluntary incentives for farmers to adopt healthy practices that protect school children from exposure to agrochemicals. The industry fought the incentives, arguing that the bill would bolster the perception that conventional agriculture is unsafe. Killed before it could be entered into the legislative process.
AB 2757 Farmworker Overtime, Lorena Gonzalez (San Diego)
The bill would have phased in overtime for farmworkers. By 2022, they would be paid overtime after 8 hours in one day and/or 40 hours in a week, like all other hourly workers. As with SB 3, it would have allowed a governor to suspend the scheduled phase due to economic downturn. The bill was voted down on the Assembly Floor. However, in the last weeks of the session, Assembly Member Gonzalez introduced, AB 1066, which was passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. It provides overtime to agricultural workers in the same way that AB 2757 had proposed.
SB 1282 Pesticides, Neonicotinoids, Mark Lenno (San Francisco) and Ben Allen (Santa Monica)
Already banned in Europe, Neonicotinoid pesticides are widely recognized as harmful to bees and other pollinators. The bill would have required new labeling on nursery plants and seeds treated with these pollinator-killing chemicals to inform citizens of their impacts and to restrict use. Killed on the Senate Floor.
AB 2054 Nutrition Assistance: Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children, Tony Thurmond (Berkeley)
The bill would have improved nutrition for low income children in summer months when free and reduced school meals are unavailable. The Department of Finance estimated high administrative costs to set up the program. Passed through the Assembly but killed in Senate Appropriations.
SB 2593 Food Facilities: Private Homes, Cheryl Brown (San Bernardino)
The bill that would have enabled small-scale entrepreneurs to prepare food in their homes for direct sale to clients fully informed of the source. The loss impedes the development of a local food economy and home-based businesses. Killed before it could be entered into the legislative process.
AB 2751 Securities: Qualifications: Exemptions, Cheryl Brown (San Bernardino)
The bill that would have made it easier for ordinary people to become investors in small local food and farm enterprises. Minor changes in investment laws could help small farms and food businesses create three times as many jobs as medium- and large-scale operations. Killed in Assembly Appropriations.
AB 1577 CalFood Program, Susan Eggman (Stockton)
Amendments to an existing law, the bill increased the value of contributions to food banks from farmers, packers and processors by altering how the state’s tax credit is calculated. Most of the food donated comes from the fields. The changes help farmers cover harvest and delivery costs. Passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.
SB 1386, Resource Conservation: Working and Natural Lands, Lois Wolk (Davis)
This bill requires state agencies to consider farms, ranches, natural parks and open space as essential vehicles for capturing carbon to meet the state’s bold greenhouse gas reduction goals. Passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.
SB 1383 Reduction of Short-lived Climate Pollutants, Ricardo Lara (Bell Gardens)
Requires the state to implement a comprehensive strategy to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, with particular impacts of methane released from dairies. Some advocates feel the bill was watered down. Passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.
AB 2715 Farmworker Energy Efficient Housing, Eduardo Garcia (Coachella Valley), Luis Alejo (Salinas), and Bill Dodd (Sacramento)
The bill would have established the Agricultural Working Poor Energy Efficient Housing Program and appropriated $50 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) to weatherize and make energy efficient (including new appliances) the owner occupied and rental units of agricultural workers. Passed in the Assembly, but killed by Senate Appropriations.
AB 1826 Update of Organic Products Certification Regulation, Mark Stone (Santa Cruz)
This bill recast and revised the composition of the California Organic Products Advisory Committee; reduced certification fees and recordkeeping burdens. Passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.
AB 2635 California Healthy Food Financing Initiative Fund, Agricultural Committee
Extends until 2023 a program creating an account in the California general fund for investing in healthy food access and community food projects in low-income rural and urban communities. Sadly it remains unfunded and therefore, ineffective. Passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.