Monday, 25 January 2021

Sen. Dodd measure aims to boost agricultural conservation

SACRAMENTO – Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, introduced legislation on Friday to increase conservation on California’s farms and ranches by offering incentives and technical assistance for adopting practices that protect wildlife and the environment.

“Rural landowners play a huge role in conservation and are critical to the economic vitality of our state,” Sen. Dodd said. “This bill would encourage farmers and ranchers to continue their stewardship, boosting the land’s resiliency and production. It’s an important step that will allow people and the environment to reap the benefits.”

California agriculture is a $54 billion industry with 76,000 farms and ranches statewide. It generates at least $100 billion in related economic activity. Benefits include preservation of open space and wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

In recent years, especially around droughts, conservation practices have declined, in part because of rising agricultural production costs, including water and energy costs.

Senate Bill 1028 would revitalize conservation, providing assistance to agricultural producers who want to voluntarily make wildlife-friendly improvements on their land.

The program would provide financial and technical assistance to create fish and wildlife habitat. It would provide added environmental benefits such as improved water quality, erosion control and conserved groundwater. Eligible land would include cropland, rangeland, pastureland and other farm or ranch lands.

SB 1028, which is similar to a measure introduced last year by Sen. Dodd (SB 253), is supported by The Nature Conservancy and the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts.

“Working landscapes provided by California’s farmers and ranchers provide an essential element of the habitat conditions that migratory birds, fish and wildlife rely on,” said Jay Ziegler of The Nature Conservancy. “Scientific analysis shows that the on-farm practices necessary to meet wildlife needs have declined substantially both during and after our recent drought. The legislation Sen. Dodd has introduced is designed to provide incentives for farmers to provide wildlife habitat consistent with their farming and ranching operations. This is a critical step forward in helping to protect wildlife habitat across California.”

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