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CA Passes Pandemic Aid for Smaller Family Farms

Yesterday California state leaders enacted budget legislation to provide critical support for small and historically underserved farmers impacted by the pandemic. With approval of Senate Bill 85, state funding to the tune of $3.35 million from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will help ensure much-needed direct relief to farmers left out of previous aid efforts as well as language and culturally appropriate technical assistance. On behalf of our more than 8,000 farmer members, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) applauds the announcement, the fruit of more than a year of advocating for such crisis support.

Small farmers continue to struggle to recover from significant challenges, particularly pandemic-induced losses sustained by closed and changing markets for their fresh, local food. Previous federal and state relief efforts have failed to reach many smaller-sized farmers, particularly black, indigenous, and people of color farmers. State efforts, supported by the California CDFA, will provide not only direct relief to growers but also allow them to leverage existing and new federal sources, particularly new programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This budget investment will enable CDFA to provide direct small grants to farmers in need and overlooked by other programs; will hire new University of California small farm specialists in at least two regions of the state; and contract technical assistance specialists across the state to provide support in connecting to federal resources.

“Community Alliance with Family Farmers commends Governor Gavin Newsom and the state legislature for providing on-the ground technical assistance to small-scale and socially disadvantaged farmers. CAFF pushed hard for this state support for the small and BIPOC growers in our communities that have felt some of the greatest brunt of the pandemic,” said Paul Towers, Executive Director of CAFF. “This investment will make farmers more successful. Not only is direct aid essential but so is the support from trusted and experienced partner organizations to assist farmers in navigating the myriad of state and federal COVID relief programs.”

State legislative leaders who have championed the needs of small and historically underserved farmers join CAFF in heralding this announcement:

“The investment of over $3 million in SB 85 to provide technical assistance to small and disadvantaged farmers is a big victory and welcome news,” said Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton). “I’m proud to have partnered with CAFF to help build the support in the State Legislature to make this happen. These types of investments are critical as the agricultural sector works to recover from the effects of the pandemic and are central to efforts to grow and diversify our agricultural economy.”

“I am thrilled to thank the Governor, Speaker Rendon and Pro Tem Atkins for including critical technical assistance funding of $3.35 million for small farmers in this week’s round of early budget actions,” said Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters). “This funding to CDFA for the UC Cooperative Extension to provide technical assistance and grants will provide desperately needed relief to our small, mid-sized, and underserved farmers to access federal disaster assistance. Federal programs are almost impossible for small players to even attempt to access–yet they’re some of the hardest hit victims of the economic and health crises of the past year. I want to send my special thanks to Secretary Karen Ross and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers for their work to secure this funding!”

“As Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, I am thrilled to see the State invest in our small scale and socially disadvantaged farmers,” said Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister). “By providing critical technical assistance funding to these farmers, this early budget action is a step in the right direction for our State and for equity in our agriculture industry.”

Community Alliance with Family Farmers is a forty-year-old organization dedicated to creating more resilient family farms, communities and ecosystems.

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