California's Climate Policy

Scientific and policy developments in California now provide a unique opportunity to advance and scale agricultural and land management practices that improve soil carbon (and soil health) and increase water holding capacity in soils, while addressing the State’s climate change goals.  Policy proposals now being considered by the State Legislature and the Governor’s Office would create an incentives program that would provide farmers, ranchers, and organizations with financial incentives to implement carbon-beneficial agricultural practices that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gases and increase soil carbon.  This program, the Healthy Soils Initiative, is being advanced by Governor Jerry Brown and will be administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the Department of Conservation (DoC), CalRecycle (for compost production and application to farms and ranches), and several other key agencies.

Current proposals would provide $25 million to over $50 million dollars per year for the Healthy Soils Initiative and possibly Sustainable Agricultural Land Conservation (SALC) Program, funded primarily with revenue from the State’s Cap and Trade Program (Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund or GGRF).  The program would fund project-related costs, including the cost to implement carbon-beneficial practices such as compost application, cover crops, and reforestation, and a limited amount for planning, capacity-building, and technical training.  

Healthy Soils Initiative

Governor Brown’s office has included funding ($25 million) to support a statewide “soil carbon” program, aimed at providing financial incentives for farmers and ranchers to implement soil and agricultural practices that sequester carbon and improve soil health, including increasing the carbon/organic matter of soils.  In fact, the Governor’s Office and key state agencies are considering setting a soil carbon target, where the State would attempt to increase soil carbon levels by 1-5% over the next 3-5 years.  Currently, the Governor’s Office has $25 million in the State’s May budget revise to support the launching of this program.  The Initiative, as currently defined, would be administerd by the CDFA, in collaboration with DoC, Calrecycle, and the Air Resources Board (ARB).  Two other key pieces of legislation, described below, support this program in the Assembly and Senate. 

Read the Healthy Soils Initiative Proposal >>

Soil Carbon and Carbon Farming Legislation

Two legislative bills – one in the Senate and one in the Assembly – would provide ongoing funding for a State Carbon Farming/Soil Carbon Program, akin to the program being advanced by Governor Brown.  On the Senate side, Sen. Lois Wolk’s bill (SB 367) would provide $50 million for a broad program to support farmers and ranchers to implement on-farm practices that reduce greenhouse gases and build soil carbon.  This bill has passed the Senate (almost unanimously) and is currently being heard by the Assembly, where it is expected to pass and sent to the Governor for his approval.  Similarly, Rep. Marc Levine’s bill (AB 761) would provide $50 million for a Statewide Carbon Farming/Soil Carbon program.  This bill has passed the Assembly and is scheduled to be considered by the Senate on June 30th, where it is also expected to pass.   Both of these bills will likely be converged after they pass their representative houses and before they head to the Governors Office for signature.  And, they will at that point be integrated into the Governor’s Healthy Soils Program to constitute one, integrated program on soil carbon and health.

MCP is also working on:

  • Securing state funding to support continued research on other climate-friendly practices and on improving the GHG emissions of the composting process
  • Demonstration of the rangeland compost practice (and other validated carbon-beneficial practices)
  • Conservation of rangelands and ranches in perpetuity to protect grasslands, soils, and their carbon sinks; and
  • Provision of technical services to ranchers and farmers to implement carbon beneficial practices, primarily through Resource Conservation Districts and land trusts.