CCOF, a California-based nonprofit that represents over 4,000 organic operations, is celebrating the funding of a new organic transition program in California. On June 30, 2022, Governor Newsom signed into law the 2022-2023 state budget, including $5 million allocated to support farmers and ranchers in transitioning to organic through grants, technical assistance, education, and outreach.
“This sort of funding shows a real commitment by the state to invest in organic agriculture,” said Maria Narez of Narez Organic Vegetables. “We know that going organic helps farmers and ranchers stay in business and protect the environment, and it is encouraging that our state leadership recognizes the value, as well.”
The program is yet to be fully defined and signed into law, but AB 2499, a bill authored by Assemblymember Brian Maienschein and sponsored by CCOF outlines the structure of such a program. The bill includes what practices should be eligible for grant funding and highlights mentorship of transitioning producers by seasoned organic growers as a key component of technical assistance.
AB 2499 passed the State Assembly on May 25 and is now headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“This bill is ultimately about providing farmers and ranchers with more tools and resources,” said Rebekah Weber, CCOF’s Policy Director. “It’s great to see broad, bipartisan support for investment in the agriculture sector.” Weber added that she was heartened to see resources directed to farmers and ranchers who need them most.
The organic transition program as envisioned in AB 2499 includes removing barriers to entry for farmers with limited resources who manage their businesses on thinner margins and cannot assume more risk, as well as for farmers of color who have faced historical and current discrimination that limits access to resources and information.
AB 2499 also requires a statewide market analysis of the organic sector to help current and future farmers better understand the market landscape.
“The $5 million signed into the 2022-2023 budget includes a set-aside for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers,” said TemuAsyr Martin Bey of the California Farmer Justice Collaborative. “This dovetails with what AB 2499 outlines and is an important factor in growing the organic sector equitably.”
CCOF consistently advocates for resources to support organic transition, and also recently worked closely with the California Organic Products Advisory Committee and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to secure $850,000 to support organic research and technical assistance at University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Organic Agriculture Institute (OAI). CDFA has also allocated an additional $1 million to support OAI.
“All of this movement toward supporting organic transition in very tangible ways will help farmers and ranchers stay in business and steward the environment,” said Weber. “I’m excited to see how we can build on the momentum to continue to invest in California’s farmers, ranchers, and communities.”
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