Tommy Harwood reviews plans for expanded agriculture-based conservation programs in California

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Tommy Harwood

Entrepreneur and farming expert Tommy Harwood takes a closer look at a planned Senate bill designed to bolster California’s agriculture-based conservation programs.

Expanding incentive programs for local farmers, newly introduced legislation is being widely touted to benefit wildlife and the environment in California like never before. The basis for the anticipated all-new California Environmental Farming Incentive Program Fund, local entrepreneur and farming expert Tommy Harwood takes a closer look at the planned Senate bill focused on technical assistance grants for California’s farmers and ranchers.

“The proposed Senate bill would support hugely expanded agriculture-based conservation programs across the state,” suggests Harwood, speaking from his office in the community of Whitethorn in Humboldt County, California.

The Cannella Environmental Farming Act of 1995 already requires the Department of Food and Agriculture to oversee environmental farming programs to provide incentives to farmers who promote the well-being of local wildlife, ecosystems, and air quality through their practices, according to Tommy Harwood. “This is currently outlined in the text of Senate Bill 1028,” adds the expert.

“Planned changes to the Senate bill,” he goes on, “would call for the establishment of what will become known as the Scientific Advisory Panel on Environmental Farming.”

The updated bill would, Harwood says, require the Scientific Advisory Panel on Environmental Farming to assist government agencies in incorporating new and ongoing conservation standards in relation to local ecosystems and other natural resources. “These conservation standards would then be integrated into both new and existing agricultural programs,” Harwood adds.

If passed, the proposed changes to the relevant Senate bill would require the Department of Food and Agriculture, with advice from the Scientific Advisory Panel on Environmental Farming, to administer what’s being called the California Environmental Farming Incentive Program. “It’s hoped that the program would support on-farm practices designed to bolster environmental benefits,” explains Harwood, “while also supporting the ongoing economic viability of the state’s agricultural industry.”

“This would be achieved,” Harwood continues, “by offering educational materials, outreach, and other incentives to farmers and ranchers wishing to pursue the adoption of management practices intended to bolster the well-being of wildlife habitats and the environment more generally.”

The result, the expert says, it’s hoped, would be that the widespread adoption of such practices would provide a plethora of benefits in terms of overall environmental conservation, including supporting improved air quality.

How such expanded agriculture-based conservation programs, including the California Environmental Farming Incentive Program, would be funded, at this stage, remains unclear, according to Tommy Harwood.

“There is, however, a priority clause in the existing Senate bill in question,” he adds, wrapping up, “for so-called specified projects, including those that benefit socially disadvantaged farmers, which may provide a clue as to how the California Environmental Farming Incentive Program and other similar initiatives may be funded moving forward.”