Feb. 14, 2017

Food Deserts: Guild Introduces Urban Ag Bill

Guild members planting vegetable gardenGuild members planting vegetable garden at Sacramento headquarters, 2013.

Last Friday, State Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill sponsored by the California Guild that will extend Urban Agricultural Incentive Zones programs (UAIZs) through the year 2028.

AB465 authorizes cities and counties to enter into an agreement with local landowners to reserve vacant, unimproved, or otherwise blighted urban lands for small-scale production of agricultural crops and animal husbandry.  The bill encourages urban agricultural production by requiring the county assessor to re-value land used for that purpose, located in UAIZs.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that nearly one million Californians live in food deserts.  Food deserts are defined in low income and urban areas that have little access to fresh food, including, for example, the Oak Park area of Sacramento, where the California Guild headquarters is located.

California Guild President Bob McFarland notes, “Access to real food is scarce in many urban areas.  Families are tempted to raise their children on nutritionally corrupt foods from McDonald’s and Taco Bell, leading to food related diseases later in life, such as diabetes.  We must provide them with fresh and healthy alternatives to fast-food and teach them the difference.  AB465 is a step in the right direction.”

AB465 extends and expands law adopted in 2013.  The California Guild is calling for:

1)  Adding a clear definition of urban agriculture.
2)  Articulating the clear need for urban agriculture as an imperative to address food security.
3)  Declaring the Legislature’s intent to encourage local food production, and partnerships with stakeholders and scientific resource experts to assist urban farmers in UAIZ-designated areas.

The program is voluntary.  Interested cities and counties can move forward to create UAIZs, such as those already established in Santa Clara and Los Angeles Counties and the cities of San Francisco and Sacramento.