SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a more than $70 million boost in the next fiscal year’s budget for food and agriculture programs, including new money for “climate smart” agriculture, addressing antibiotic use in livestock and licensing medical marijuana.
In his preliminary ledger, Brown proposed $485.1 million for the Department of Food and Agriculture, including $45.9 million in one-time funds for infrastructure needs as his $122.6 billion overall budget for 2016-17 envisions a continued economic recovery.
The $439.2 million for the CDFA’s regular expenditures would still be a sizable boost from the $414.4 million budgeted for the department in the current fiscal year and includes more funding for a trio of initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, Secretary Karen Ross said in a blog post.
“It’s called climate-smart agriculture because it represents a set of practices that sustainably increase productivity and resilience while reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Ross said.
In all, $75 million from the state’s cap-and-trade program would be set aside for:
• A dairy digester research and development program ($35 million).
• Financial incentives for growers to put in more efficient water systems ($20 million).
• A program to increase carbon levels in California’s agricultural soils ($20 million).
“CDFA is honored and pleased to have the opportunity to maintain these programs for the people of California,” Ross said. “We already have success stories to share.”
The water program — called the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, or SWEEP — has already allocated nearly $18 million, and more than $11 million has been provided for five new dairy digester projects in the state, she said.
Brown’s ledger would also provide $1.3 million and eight positions to implement Senate Bill 27, which introduces new limits on agricultural use in livestock. The bill requires that CDFA develop antimicrobial stewardship guidelines, including antibiotic selection and administering policy for veterinarians and best-management practices for producers, and track antibiotic use.
Nearly $3.3 million and 18 workers would be used to implement a package of bills passed last year that require the CDFA to license and regulate the cultivation of medical marijuana, including regulations to minimize grow sites’ environmental impacts, according to a budget summary.
The budget also includes $40 million for an agricultural lands program administered by CDFA and six other agencies, which aims to keep farm and ranch land in agriculture through easements. In all, Brown’s budget envisions 1,490.3 positions for CDFA in fiscal 2016-17 — a decrease from 1,578.7 currently funded.
The CDFA’s portion comes amid a budget that would also devote $9.5 billion to the Natural Resources Agency, including $323.1 million for continued response to the drought and an additional $215 million for drought-related wildfire suppression costs.
“This budget provides significant money for drought resistance as if we’re coming into the fifth year of drought,” Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird told reporters in a conference call.
For instance, the ledger sets aside $42 million for installing a rock barrier in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to prevent saltwater intrusion — a precaution that was necessary last summer but may not be this year if California experiences a wet winter. Laird said the expenditure will be re-evaluated before Brown submits his revised budget in May.
“Our assessment was that we were very successful in alleviating the amount of water we would have had to release from upstream” by installing the rock barrier to keep saltwater out, Department of Water Resources director Mark Cowin told reporters. “We are budgeting and prepared to do that again if we have a fifth year of drought.”
Cowin cautioned people from thinking the drought is over just because it’s been raining and snowing in parts of the state. He noted the state’s two key reservoirs — Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville — are still near historically low levels and that precipitation in some areas is still below normal for the season.
“We have quite a ways to go before the drought is over,” he said.