By Rachel Trachten
Our California state legislators have been busy working on bills that would affect our food and the farmers who grow it. Here’s an update on three important bills that may be passed into law in the coming months:
SB 907- Electronic Benefits Transfer Systems: Farmers’ Markets
Authored by Senator Richard Pan of Sacramento, this bill would increase access to farmers’ market foods for low-income individuals and families. The bill creates the “Local, Equitable Access to Food (LEAF) Program,” a noncompetitive grant program that expands the use of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) systems at certified farmers’ markets and tribal farmers’ markets. Grant funding from the LEAF Program can be used by farmers’ markets or nonprofits for several purposes: to scale and improve EBT access at existing farmers’ markets; to establish new farmers’ markets with EBT access; or for operational services, technical assistance, or outreach. These grants will offset some of the costs of establishing EBT access at farmers’ markets across the state, especially in areas already struggling with food insecurity.
SB 982- California Apple Commission: Organic Apple Certification Program
Authored by Senator John Laird of the Santa Cruz/San Luis Obispo area, this bill would prevent non-organic apples from being falsely sold to consumers with an organic label. Some out-of-state apples are known to have been treated with 1-MCP, a non-organic product that creates a longer shelf-life. This bill authorizes the California Apple Commission (CAC) to establish an organic apple inspection and certification program to ensure that apples labeled as organic are indeed organic.
SB 1066- California Farmworkers Drought Resilience Pilot Project
Authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado of the southern Central Valley, this bill would provide a guaranteed supplemental income to farmworkers for three years. The bill is a response to the impact of worsening drought conditions, which have led to reductions in planting and less opportunity for farmworkers. Eligible households would include a person who was a farmworker during the March 11, 2020–January 1, 2022 period, among other requirements. These households would receive supplemental pay of $1,000 per month for three years. According to Senator Hurtado, “In 2021 alone, California’s drought led to $1.2 billion in direct costs to the agriculture industry and the loss of over 8,500 jobs.” ♦