SACRAMENTO, CA – California has one of the world’s most productive agricultural lands, which grow a significant amount of crops for the United States. However, large portions of these lands are predominantly used to cultivate feed crops for livestock and grow livestock directly, causing emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, a leading cause of global warming. By supporting farmers who want to transition to growing crops that can serve as inputs for plant-based foods, the state can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, create a resilient food supply for a growing population, and diversify the agricultural lands, all while supporting California farmers. This is why today, Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), along with cosponsors Social Compassion in Legislation and The Good Food Institute have introduced AB 1289, The Smart Climate Agriculture Program. 

By helping farmers in transitioning from animal agriculture to plant-based agriculture, California will solidify its leadership role in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, creating California jobs in a burgeoning industry, providing wholesome, sustainable food for its growing population, and helping keep family farms in business. California has already taken significant steps toward establishing policies and programs to preserve and protect the environment, combat climate change, and create green jobs, and AB 1289 exemplifies all these Californian values.

“By providing our local farms with the tools and resources to transition to plant-based agriculture, farmers can play a greater role in combating climate change through sustainable practices, while helping the state become a leader in supplying and processing plant-based foods and products for our ever-growing population,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “I am proud to support family farms and author a historic piece of legislation to exemplify and further California’s values.”

Existing law already requires the Department of Food and Agriculture to oversee an environmental farming program to provide incentives to farmers whose practices promote the well-being of ecosystems, air quality, and wildlife and their habitat. AB 1289 would establish the Smart Climate Agriculture Program, which would provide grants to small and mid-sized farmers to transition their lands from animal to plant-based agriculture. The bill would also provide technical assistance to those farmers, as well as develop best practices for transitioning the land. 

“AB 1289 gives a path to farmers looking for a way out from being under the control of other entities that often leaves them in debt and with no way out. This bill is voluntary, and it helps the farmers who want options,” said Judie Mancuso founder and CEO of Social Compassion in Legislation. “Not only does it help them, but it benefits all of society by lowering greenhouse gas emissions, providing more sustainable long term food sources, and making us less dependent on foreign sources for ingredients for the growing plant-based food industry.”

Small to mid-sized family farms who transition from livestock, dairy, or crop feed farming over to plant-based agriculture will create job opportunities as market demand for plant-based products continues to grow. By keeping these farms in operation and diversifying the state’s working lands, it is the intention of this bill to increase agricultural revenue and help California become a leader in supplying and processing plant-based foods and products, all while helping local farmers. AB 1289 will also help the state adopt additional practices that will protect and preserve the environment and natural resources, especially as the population continues to grow. By encouraging plant-based foods and practices, the state can improve its efforts to implement this policy. 

Sales of plant-based meat, eggs, and dairy products are predicted to soar in 2021 — powered by investments in production and technology from private and public entities who see alternative protein as a safe, sustainable bet. The market for plant-based food in the U.S. reached $5 billion in 2019, up 11% from 2018, having grown five times faster than total food sales, according to The Good Food Institute.

“Consumer demand for plant-based foods is skyrocketing,” said Jessica Almy, Director of Policy at The Good Food Institute. “AB 1289 supports farmers who want to meet this demand and put themselves at the center of an emerging, sustainable industry. As California looks to strengthen its food system and create green jobs, AB 1289 will provide a critical tool to ensure opportunities for farmers and options for consumers.”

AB 1289 is Authored by:

Assemblymember Ash Kalra represents the 27th District, which encompasses approximately half of San Jose and includes all of downtown. He is the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment and also serves as a member on the Housing and Community Development, Judiciary, Transportation, and Water, Parks, and Wildlife committees. For more information, visit https://a27.asmdc.org/

AB 1289 is Cosponsored by:

Social Compassion in Legislation’s (SCIL) mission is to save and protect animals in the wild, on the farm, and in homes through public policy advocacy in California and beyond. SCIL works closely with legislators to sponsor compassionate legislation and steer regulations that affect animals, as well as fight legislation that does harm. The non-profit partners with other organizations aligned with their values to amplify a voice for the voiceless. To learn more about SCIL and current legislations, please visit https://socialcompassioninlegislation.org/.

The Good Food Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working internationally to make alternative proteins delicious, affordable, and accessible. GFI advances open-access research; mobilizes resources and talent; and empowers partners across the food system to create a sustainable, secure, and just protein supply. GFI is funded entirely by private philanthropic support.