Food systems shape public wellbeing, as well as environmental integrity, and economic activity from food production to service. Food policies are set at the federal, state, and local level to ensure healthy, safe, and nutritious food is available to the public. California is the largest agricultural producer in the U.S., which offers the opportunity to take the lead in food system policy. Climate change, food insecurity, and obesity are a few of the large-scale issues that are influenced by food system policies.
National Food Policy
The national Agriculture Bill (Farm Bill) is revised every 5 years, most recently in 2014. The newest version authorizes $489 billion in funding, of which 80% is directed to nutrition programs, 8% is marked for crop insurance, 6% is devoted to land conservation, and 5% secures commodity crops. The most noticeable change in the 2014 Farm Bill was the elimination of direct payments to growers and a shift to crop insurance. The current version also includes funding for the promotion of farmer’s markets and local food programs. For small organic farmers, new crop insurance programs have been established, as well as a cost share program to defray the expense of organic certification. For more details on the 2014 Farm Bill, read the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s BLOG.
Signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, this law protects food donors from civil and criminal liability when donations are made to a non-profit organization.
The Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act, introduced in the Senate in 2016, will allow states flexibility to determine methods for locally processed meats sales and distribution. This act amends the Federal Meat Inspection Act to allow exemption for certain federal inspections on locally slaughtered meats.
California Food Policy
Established in 1965, the California Land Conservation Act enables landowners to reduce their property tax by limiting the use of their land to agriculture or open space. Agreements lasting a minimum of 10 years are made between landowners and local governments. According to the San Mateo County Planning and Building Department, there are currently 32,197 acres contracted under the Land Conservation Act.
California Assembly Bills
Provides a tax incentive for California growers who donate healthy foods to food banks.
Current food safety laws restrict the ability of fishermen to sell directly to consumers. AB 226 sets guidelines for the establishment of nonpermanent fisherman’s markets where fresh fish can be cleaned and sold by fishermen. These markets will follow established food and safety requirements and require permit holders to be California licensed commercial fisherman or California-registered aquaculturists.
Removed prohibitive requirements on the local level that created barriers for community food producers and gleaners to sell or distribute uncut produce and shelled eggs directly to the public.
In 2014, California passed Assembly Bill (AB) 551 enabling landowners in metropolitan areas to use underutilized land for agricultural use for a minimum of 5 years in return for tax incentives. Before the law may be implemented, cities and counties must create urban agriculture incentive zones. This bill is intended to promote urban farms, which increase access to fresh produce and reduce urban blight.
As of September 2015, worker’s compensation benefits are available regardless of citizenship or immigration status. AB 623 entitles all employees to receive compensation for any injury sustained during employment or caused by their work. Research shows that 57% of food system workers suffered an injury on the job and 83% don’t receive health care though their employer.
AB 876 directs cities, counties, and regional agencies to report an estimate of the organic waste that will be produced in their jurisdiction over a 15-year period. The California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 required that 50% of solid waste be diverted from landfills by the year 2000, with jurisdictions submitting
AB 1045 requires the California Environmental Protection Agency to collaborate with the State Resources Control Board, State Air Resources Board and Department of Food and Agriculture to implement policies to divert organic waste from landfills. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least five (5) metric tons per year by processing and distributing compost. The environmental benefits of organic compost use as a soil amendment and fertilizer include soil-carbon sequestration, enhanced water quality, erosion control, energy and water conservation in the irrigation process, and decreased reliance on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
AB 1321 establishes fund disbursement procedures for the Nutrition Incentive Matching Grant Program operated by the Office of Farm to Fork within the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The goal of these programs is to increase access to fresh vegetables, fruits, and nuts grown in California to underserved residents. The Nutrition Incentive Grant Program will enable the collection of funding from the federal government and other sources, dedicated to the promotion of food access.
Starting in July 1, 2017, AB 1567 requires public and charter schools to give first priority enrollment in school meal programs to homeless youth and students that are identified in foster care. The bill also waives the fee for participation in these programs, which often include meals or snacks.
Effective in January 1, 2013, this law allows individuals to make or package specific non-hazardous foods in their private kitchens, which are known as “Cottage Food Operations”. The California Health and Safety Code set forth preparation guidelines, including sanitary precautions, labeling procedures and food processor training.
The bill requires that funding be distributed to food banks that support on-campus pantry and hunger relief efforts serving low-income students.
AB 1810 amends the previously passed California Seed Law to remove barriers for noncommercial seed practices, such as seed libraries. This act clarifies the term ‘sell,’ as it pertains to seed sharing enterprises which are not subject to the same labeling, testing, and permitting requirements as commercial enterprises.
This bill provides a mechanism to implement the state’s mandate for businesses to recycle organic waste beginning on April 1, 2016. Local jurisdictions are expected to provide waste recycling programs to meet the diversion needs of businesses that are subject to the law. CalRecycle will then compile the data from the waste collection and evaluate each jurisdiction’s program to re-evaluate the state policy.
Establishes the California Healthy Food Financing Initiative Council to manage funds allocated by the federal and state governments, along with philanthropic and private funds, to promote access to healthy food for underserved communities.
AB 2757 is an amendment to the California labor code to specify the requirements of overtime pay for agricultural workers. To date, agriculture workers are exempt from overtime pay. With the passage of this amendment, beginning in 2019, laborers will receive one and a half times the regular rate pay rate when a workday extends over nine and a half hours. The minimum hourly requirements will reduce each year, until the minimum for overtime pay is eight hours. By 2022, workers will receive no less than double the regular pay rate for a workday over twelve hours. The law will phase in over the course of 4 years, beginning in 2017.
Institutes a tax of $0.02 per fluid ounce of bottled sugary drinks or concentrate distributed in the state. The tax revenue will be deposited into the Healthy California Fund, designed to prevent and raise awareness about childhood obesity and diabetes. An oversight committee will create a strategy for awareness and prevention campaigns and manage the distribution of funds to the Department of Education, the Department of Food and Agriculture, the State Department of Public Health, and the Department of Health Care Services.
California Senate Bills
Starting in January 2018, Senate Bill (SB) 27 will require that antimicrobial drugs be administered to livestock by a licensed veterinarian, and strictly for medical purposes rather than adding value to meat production. The intent of this legislature is to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria in livestock that may spread to other animals and humans.
SB 367 set aside $20 million from California’s state cap and trade budget to incentivize sustainable farming practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bills established a funding source for the Healthy Soils Initiative.
This bill requires updates on school nutritional standards under Healthy Food and Healthy Student Act for all food and beverages sold or served to students in elementary, middle, and high school. Requirements include limitations on fried foods and trans-fats.
Adding to the Food and Agriculture Code, SB 1247 established incentives for the use of sustainable and eco-friendly farming practices within an ‘agriculture innovation zone’. These zones include disadvantaged communities and sites in proximity to schools or senior care centers.
Institutes the Nutrition Incentive Matching Grant Program in the Office of Farm to Fork to collect matching funds to encourage the purchase and consumption of California fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables and to increase the amount of agricultural products available to underserved communities and schools in the state.
Enables the Department of Food and Agriculture to oversee the Healthy Soils Program, which will integrate climate friendly practices into the agriculture sector. Programs will provide economic incentives to farmers whose management techniques contribute to healthy soils and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Funding will support on-site demonstration projects and the technical advisory committee that will evaluate the scientific validity of projects.
An addition to the Public Resource Code, SB 1368 establishes that the protection and management of land is a vital element of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. As such, state agencies will be required to consider this strategy when revising or establishing policies and regulations related to protection and management of natural and working lands.