What’s new with California Food and Farming legislation?

Katie Turner and Sarah Goodnow at Sierra Harvest's Farmer's Market Booth
Katie Turner and Sarah Goodnow at Sierra Harvest’s Farmer’s Market Booth

In March of 2015, Sierra Harvest convened the first Nevada County Food Policy Council meeting. This group now consists of 30 food and farming organizations, businesses and institutions who are contributing to a healthy, vibrant food system in Nevada County. Our local council is part of a larger California Food Policy Council made up of dozens of councils across the state. Each year the CFPC produces a legislative report highlighting what happened with bills we tracked during the previous legislative session.  Check out the legislative report here, or read on for the highlights.

Legislative highlights

Ecological Farming

Good news

  • Small seed savers will continue to be able to swap seeds without regulation. (AB1810)
  • Farmers will see reduced fees and record keeping burdens for organic certification. (AB1826)
  • 5 million dollars was earmarked for California soils which will provide farmers with financial incentives for things like composting, hedgerows, drip irrigation and other carbon sequestration and water conservation efforts.


  • We won’t yet have special labeling on neonicotinoid pesticides which are widely recognized to harm bees and already banned in Europe. (SB1282)
  • There will not be incentives given to farmers near schools to adopt practices that protect school children from exposure to agrochemicals. Industry killed this before it got to a vote. (SB1247)

Healthy Food Access

Good News

  • $5 million dollars was appropriated to help low-income families afford fresh fruits and veggies through the farmer’s market match program. This will be good for small farmers too. (AB1321)
  • Farmers can now take a tax deduction for donating food to food banks/pantries. (AB1577)


  • There will be NO health impact fee on distributors of sugary sweetened beverages. This one was killed by industry before it got to a vote.

Food Chain Workers

Good news

  • The minimum wage was raised to $15/hour in steps between now and 2022 (SB3) and farm workers will now be eligible for overtime pay like all other hourly workers. (AB1066). These bills were controversial because farming is such a low margin business that paying more for labor will be a real burden, but in the end the CFPC was in favor of this because if those at the bottom of the economic system get better pay, everyone will ultimately benefit. Right now, the average farmworker pay is $9.50/h. For those preparing food it is $8.70/h.

This year for the first time, the CFPC also issued a report card scoring our representatives on how they voted on food and farming legislation we cared about. Here are their scores:
Governor Jerry Brown 86%, Assemblyman Brian Dahle 70%, State Senator Ted Gaines 56%

For more information on how to participate in the Nevada County Food Policy Council, please contact Rachel Berry at rachel (at) sierraharvest.org or (530) 265-2343.