A budget subcommittee for the state Senate on Wednesday held a hearing to review several drought items within the governor’s initial budget proposal. Republican Sen. Brian Dahle of Bieber pushed back once again on measures he viewed as driving businesses out of California.

He took aim at a program for repurposing fallowed farmland for ecosystem restoration and other conservation goals in the wake of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

“We cannot just continue to pay farmers to leave,” said Dahle. “It's basically giving them money so they can go to some other state where there's water, and that land will be idle.”

At the opposite end, the Environmental Defense Fund and other groups encouraged the lawmakers to bump the funding from $40 million to $50 million.

Looking for the best, most comprehensive and balanced news source in agriculture? Our Agri-Pulse editors don't miss a beat! Sign up for a free month-long subscription.

Dahle also pushed for adding more money for Sites Reservoir. Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot responded that the project will likely gather more Proposition 1 dollars soon and said the administration is also investing in groundwater recharge for water banking and more flexible reservoir operations to preserve more storage.

Crowfoot, meanwhile, gathered praise from Rep. John Garamendi of the Sacramento Valley during a House subcommittee hearing this week on the 2022 Water Resources Development Act. Garamendi commended the Newsom administration for advancing Sites Reservoir and for supporting floodplain restoration projects with rice farmers.