August 23rd, 2014 by Keith Schildt
The truncated state legislative session is winding down for the year as we approach election time. For the most part, Slow Food-friendly legislation victories in Sacramento were far and few between. Those pieces of legislation all had well-financed and organized opposition. For an example of this see the recent article in the Sacramento Bee (http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/17/6633523/big-business-wins-capitol-food.html).
That said, there is still some good news to report. AB2561 (The Neighborhood Food Act) will go to a full Senate for vote very soon. As reported in a past newsletter article, AB2561 would give people who rent or live in homeowner associations more rights in their ability to grow food on their properties. The bill has been diluted from its original language but is still a victory for home gardeners who rent or live in restrictive homeowner associations. The bill will most likely pass in the Senate but it is unclear whether Governor Brown will sign the legislation into law. The Slow Food California Policy Committee is drafting a letter in conjunction with the Sustainable Economies Law center (the sponsor of the bill) to Governor Brown in support of this legislation. The letter will be sent to local chapters for their support and use also. As a side note, when advocating legislation in the Governor’s office apparently the best grassroots vehicle is (and maybe apropos for Slow Foodies) “snail mail” as the Governor’s office reportedly does not track phone calls or emails.
AB1990 (Community Food Production) continues to be a confounding piece of legislation dealing with gleaning and small-scale “backyard” production. It attempts to set up a much-needed food safety regulatory scheme for this type of production but the language can be interpreted as too open-ended, which may have county health officers setting high fees for inspections that may negate any profit from these small scale production efforts. It also stipulates regulation for some types of production but not for other types. As written it could impact donations to food banks and have an adverse effect on the ability of small corner stores in low-income neighborhoods to sell fresh local food. The Slow Food California Policy Committee has not taken a position on this bill.
Lastly, legislation (AB1789) dealing with Neonecotinoids – an insecticide that many scientists feel is linked to declining honey bee populations – had a Second Reading in the Senate and is expected to get out of the Senate and be sent to Governor Brown for his signature. Similar to AB2561, the Governor has not given any indication whether he will sign this legislation into law.