At the Food & Ag Issues Summit this week, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross shared with Agri-Pulse West what she’s watching in the rapidly evolving bond negotiations.

In recent years the Newsom administration invested about $1 billion in a sustainable ag package. But the budget crunch has dried up nearly all new funding. For the past year, lawmakers have been pushing for a bond to backfill much of that spending while shoring up climate and water initiatives.

Ross explained how the administration had planned for an eventual end to the record surpluses by limiting much of the spending to one-time allocations, rather than ongoing commitments. The expiration dates provided a convenient end point.

“No matter how many times you say, ‘This is one-time dollars; it could be gone tomorrow,’ people build out expectations,” said Ross. “They build out staff, they build out contracts.”

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Of the potential bonds under consideration in the Assembly and Senate, Ross noticed that some of the spending would backfill programs to keep them alive for now, while other provisions would ensure longer-term investments for priority programs. Advocates have told Ross that the concept of a climate bond continues to poll well, though public sentiment has shied away from the larger bond numbers pitched a year ago.
Reflecting ag concerns, she added: “I wish there'd be more water built into that,” now that the Legislature has agreed with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to cut $500 million in funds for water storage.