CDFA expects to see several bills return in 2021 that failed to pass during the recent two-year session for the Legislature. This includes a climate resilience bond and contentious measures on single-use plastics in packaging, broadband and waste byproducts.

During the monthly meeting for the State Board of Food and Agriculture on Tuesday, CDFA Deputy Secretary for Legislative Affairs Rachel O'Brien laid out a few bills to watch for next year, particularly with issues related to climate change. Yet the budget crisis will continue to dominate the policymaking.

Assembly Bill 1071 had proposed a program encouraging climate adaptation tools among farmers, such as participating in CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program and other pilot and demonstration projects. Several bills offering incentives programs like this, however, were stripped of funding or died in the process altogether.

“Ultimately, you know, the budget restraints are going to be a factor in many things going forward,” cautioned O’Brien.

Another bill related to climate impacts sought to establish a carbon offset program for whole orchard recycling. Due to the pandemic and consolidated legislative year, the bill never had a committee hearing. O’Brien said the Air Resources Board is currently pursuing what a financing mechanism like that would look like and what legislation may be needed to address the issue.

One contentious bill took aim at solid waste franchises and byproducts originating from supermarkets, grocery stores, restaurants and other retail food establishments. The bill divided the agriculture community and failed to make it out of committee. The issue is also under litigation.

“This is a very complex conversation,” said O’Brien. “We'll continue to see that one play out.”

AB 1080 and SB 54 on plastic packaging products and the circular economy surprised many by failing to pass at the last hour for two years in a row. The bill would have imposed a comprehensive regulatory scheme on producers, retailers and wholesalers for single-use packaging.

“This is definitely something that a lot of the stakeholders recognize that we need to get our arms around,” said O’Brien. “A lot of people are still trying to put their heads together to figure that out.”

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Bills tackling more positive issues for the industry will make comebacks as well. One on olive oil labeling and the usage of the California name and regions in marketing products will likely return. O’Brien expects to see more bills related to California Grown and bringing locally sourced foods to schools and institutions.

“We continue to ask our growers to grow to some of the highest standards, while at the same time recognizing their value and that we want to eat and share the bounty of what they grow,” she said.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross tempered expectations for some of these, warning that the pandemic has “dramatically changed our fiscal situation.”

“We're going to have to be very focused on how the resources we do have are spent and how we look at partnerships and alignment with investment portfolios, private investors,” she said. “We're going to have to be very creative on financing.”

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