SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) released a solicitation for grant applications today for the Healthy Soils Program. Applications are due by 5pm on April 13.
Both direct farmer incentive grants (up to $50,000 per grant) and demonstration project grants (up to $100,000 per grant) are available. The total funding available is $1.6 million, which was leftover from the first round of grant awards in 2017. No more than $500,000 will be allocated to demonstration projects.
The first of its kind in the country, the program provides grants to farmers and ranchers for implementing on-farm practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or store carbon in soil, trees and shrubs. Types of practices that are eligible include the addition of mulch and compost, cover cropping, reduced tillage, and the planting of herbaceous and woody plants such as windbreaks, hedgerows, riparian plantings, filter strips, silvopasture and more.
CDFA made a few noteworthy changes to the application and program guidelines for this round, including the following:
- CDFA will review and award applications on a first-come, first-serve basis, provided the application meets the eligibility requirements and a minimum score.
- CDFA will now allow applicants to apply for any one of the fifteen eligible practices, unlike the last round’s requirement that applicants adopt one of five “soil management” practices in order to be eligible to apply for the other ten eligible practices. This is an important improvement for ranchers and organic farmers, who were limited by the original requirement.
- CDFA has made the application available as a fillable Microsoft Word document instead of online through the state’s FAAST system. This should make it easier for farmers to fill out, save, share, and get feedback from technical assistance providers.
- CDFA will establish a technical review committee, made up of researchers, extension specialists, and farm advisors affiliated with the University of California and California State University systems, as well as state and federal agency experts.
- CDFA will allow technical assistance providers to forgo hosting a public workshop and instead use their grants solely to provide one-on-one assistance to applicants.
Changes #2-5 are consistent with CalCAN’s recommendations for the program, so we are grateful to CDFA for making those improvements. Still, we hope that before future grant rounds, CDFA will consider adopting our full set of recommendations for program improvements, which we developed with input from applicants, interested farmers, and 18 technical assistance providers.
CDFA announced last week that it is accepting technical assistance grant applications (due March 9), and will announce the technical assistance grant recipients on March 12th. We will update this blog when those grants are announced.