CDFA Advisory Panel Approves New Technical Assistance Grant Program, Solicitation Expected Soon

Posted on Thursday, July 25th, 2019 by Brian Shobe
Merced almond farmer Sacramento Aguilar (left) and NRCS Soil Conservationist Jenna Dunn discuss the plant variety in Aguilar’s cover crop seed mix. Aguilar planted cover crops, with assistance from NRCS California, in an effort to boost pollinator habitat and improve organic matter in his soil. Photo credit: USDA NRCS

The Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel (EFA SAP) voted unanimously last week to approve a final Request for Proposals (RFP) for the California Department of Agriculture’s (CDFA) new Climate Smart Agriculture Technical Assistance Grant Program, which is expected to begin accepting applications by the end of the July. We will post the solicitation on our blog when it is announced. CDFA indicated at the EFA SAP meeting that it plans to have a one-month application period.

Eligible technical assistance (TA) providers will be able to apply for a three-year grant of up to $60,000 (per program) to provide comprehensive technical assistance to farmers and ranchers considering applying to the Healthy Soils Program (HSP), Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP), and/or State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP).

The technical assistance program is the result of AB 2377 (Irwin), legislation that CalCAN sponsored in 2018. At least five percent of the funding for HSP, AMMP, and SWEEP will go to the new technical assistance program.

CDFA Responsive to TA Provider Feedback with Multiple Improvements to Final RFP

In May, we shared with CDFA five recommendations from CalCAN and 17 TA providers to improve implementation of the TA program. Of those five recommendations, four were fully adopted and one was partially adopted, as follows. The final RFP does the following:

  1. Gives TA providers the flexibility and autonomy to be responsive to unique producer needs by using an inclusive definition of eligible pre- and post- award TA activities.
  2. Uses a standard, three-year grant structure, which will allow TA providers to be flexible, reliable, and responsive to producers while minimizing their administrative burden and financial uncertainty.
  3. Removes the requirement for TA providers to serve multiple counties, which would have been complicated for county Farm Bureaus and many Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs), which have defined service areas.
  4. Allows subject matter experts from the federal government (e.g. NRCS) and academia to serve as technical reviewers of grant applications.
  5. Increases the maximum indirect cost rate to 20%, which will make the program more financially feasible for many TA providers.

We are very thankful to CDFA for its engagement with stakeholders through two listening sessions on the new program and the department’s responsiveness to TA provider recommendations in its final RFP.

Solicitations for the Next Rounds of SWEEP, HSP & AMMP Expected in Late Fall/Early Winter

CDFA staff announced at the meeting that they are tentatively aiming to release solicitations for the climate smart agriculture programs as follows:

SWEEP: November for the program’s remaining ~$8 million from Proposition 68 funds

HSP: December/January for the program’s $28 million from the FY 19-20 budget

AMMP: December/January; available funding to be determined by the Secretary. CDFA received $34 million for FY 19-20 for AMMP and digesters. 

The next EFA SAP meeting will be on October 17.

If you have questions about the new technical assistance program or the climate smart agriculture programs, please write Brian[at]calclimateag.org

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