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California Food Policy Council 2016 Report on Legislation Related to Food and Farming & 2016 California Food and Agriculture Legislator Scorecard


Now that 2016 is winding down, in what ways has California advanced good farm and food policies, and where are there still areas for improvement? Which legislators have emerged as champions, and how can we learn from these trends in order to increase California's commitment and success in creating a healthier, equitable and more resilient food system? 

Released by the California Food Policy Council and PHI's Roots of Change, download two new resources that analyze and score the performance of California’s state law makers related to the policy priorities of those seeking healthy food and resilient farms and ranches: 

Learn more about these two resources, below.

California Food Policy Council 2016 Report on Legislation Related to Food & Farming

The California Food Policy Council (CAFPC) believes that sound food and farm policies are key to promoting vital communities and a healthy future. This 2016 report is the fourth consecutive effort to track and analyze bills critical to food production and food access in the state legislature.

Download the report.

The recent 2016 legislative session delivered some encouraging gains related to food chain worker wages, climate change, soil building and healthy food access. This may indicate a welcome shift toward more investment in food and agriculture. Yet before debate could even begin, powerful interests thwarted other bills to protect school children from pesticides, alleviate hunger, advance food-related entrepreneurship and levy impact fees on obesity-inducing sugary beverages.

Of the Policy Work Group’s top 15 bills of interest for 2016, just six have become law. Eight were defeated. One was passed, but vetoed by Governor Brown. Although defeated, two of the bills (AB 1350 & AB 2757) ultimately resulted in positive outcomes. The results look worse when considering that four bills strongly supported by the Policy Work Group were Dead on Arrival (DOA). We believe the Legislature can and must do better. There are too many interrelated public health, ecological and economic challenges connected to food and farming to simply sweep tough decisions aside.

A handful of bellwether issues identified by the Policy Work Group gained ground this year. Farmworkers—long suffering among the lowest wages of American laborers—will receive a raise in the coming years. Public health advocates, farmers, and local food activists succeeded in extending the tax credit for food donations to food banks and increasing state funding for nutrition incentives that make California’s fresh produce more affordable. The ecological farming community, working together with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, gained modest funding to help farmers build healthy soil and adapt to the realities of global warming.

The imperatives for creating a just and more sustainable food system are clear. The income gap between rich and poor must narrow. Carbon must be removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil—the foundation of our farms, forests and grasslands. Methane and other potent greenhouse gas emissions must be minimized. Farmers and ranchers need more avenues to earn revenue that covers the true cost of food. California can and should lead the charge. In spite of these imperatives, our efforts remain hobbled by insufficient state and federal investment to expand less toxic and more resilient agriculture practices and to build the new businesses that can deliver affordable local food. These interconnected challenges are larger than federal and state governments’ abilities to address them alone. Our public sector must join with communities to implement positive changes. By passing model legislation around food and farming, California could leverage more federal, state and private funding that enables communities to achieve environmental, economic and food justice for all people—wherever they live.

2016 California Food and Agriculture Legislator Scorecard

The Roots of Change Legislator Scorecard reflects the commitments of California’s policy makers to the priorities of the food movement. The scores were calculated using 15 bills selected by the Policy Work Group for the 2016 California Food and Agriculture Legislation Tracker. Scores simply reflect how many times a legislator voted “yea” on those bills. The Governor’s score is based on the percentage of times he signed a bill placed on his desk.

The analysis of the scores reveals at least three things. First, the Governor provides sound support. He signed six of the seven bills he received in 2016. Second, the Legislature also offers strong support when bills actually make it to a floor vote in one or both houses. A majority of legislators (65 of 120) voted yea at least 90% of the time, an encouraging fact. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the major impediment to innovative legislation lies in the committees, particularly Appropriations. This suggests too many members have other priorities. They do not yet fully appreciate the impacts of food and agriculture on public health, the economy and ecology of California. This makes clear the need for the food movement to become more proactive, articulate and effective in its calls for change.

Download the scorecard.

The Scorecard also recognizes four Food and Agriculture Policy Champions:

  • Senator Lois Wolk for her contributions to ecological agriculture;
  • Senator Mark Leno for his contributions to Labor;
  • Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman for her contributions to farm and ranch economic viability; and
  • Assemblymember Phil Ting for his contributions to healthy food access.

Although, as their records will show, they have all supported policy changes in all four categories. They are clearly champions of the kinds of policies sought by the good food movement. For this, we honor them.

About the California Food Policy Council (CAFPC): The CAFPC is comprised of 29 local food policy councils from across the state. The CAFPC represents diverse food system stakeholders that develop and promote statewide policies and practices that produce healthy, safe, human and abundant food in ways that protect our environment and ensure the prosperity of our workers, farms, and food businesses. Learn more at rootsofchange.org.

About Roots of Change: Roots of Change is a ‘think and do tank’ developing road maps to victory for the food movement. Since 2002, ROC has been a critical resource for food system reformers, creating large and unprecedented collaborations between agriculture and NGOs, community organizations and policy experts. Since 2012, ROC has served as the backbone of the California Food Policy Council, a statewide collaboration of 45 diverse regions and food system reform groups, that believe sound food and farm policy is key to promoting healthy and resilient communities. ROC is a program of the Public Health Institute. Learn more at rootsofchange.org.


the California Food Policy Council , Michael Dimock

Produced through PHI's:

Roots of Change