The Assembly Agriculture Committee approved a bill last week that would grant a special ag pass to farmers and ranchers, allowing them access to their land when it is within a wildfire evacuation zone.

“Road closures often prevent ranchers from doctoring their animals, providing them essential water and feed, or evacuating them,” said Republican Asm. Megan Dahle of Lassen County.

Ventura and Santa Barbara counties have already begun an ag pass program, which trains farmers and ranchers in emergency response. Counties have had to develop these programs individually, which is time consuming and costly, argued Dahle.

The bill gained pushback from California Rural Legal Assistance and the California Climate and Agriculture Network over concerns that it would put farmworkers in harm’s way during emergencies, especially since major fires can expand rapidly.

Dahle is taking amendments to exclude employees from the program.