Strategic Growth Council Re-Commits to Funding At-Risk Farmland Conservation

The Strategic Growth Council (SGC) yesterday voted unanimously to approve the 2017 program guidelines for the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC), thereby ensuring that ten percent of the SGC’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) budget will again go to the SALC program. The actual funding level for SALC will not be determined until after the fourth cap-and-trade auction in May; though it is estimated to be at least $7.5 million based on the first three auctions this fiscal year.

SALC is the first program in the country to invest in farmland conservation for its climate benefits. California has been losing 50,000 acres of farmland per year, on average, and those converted, urban acres can contribute 70 times more greenhouse gas emissions compared to farmland acres.

This SALC agriculture conservation easement (in purple) will permanently conserve a 571-acre farm in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County, redirect the growth of Soledad towards less productive farmland, protect part of the Salinas River riparian corridor, and provide for the only safe wildlife passage across Highway 101 between Salinas and King City, a 45-mile stretch of highway. Ag Land Trust of Salinas, CA coordinated and submitted the successful project application.

The awards made in the first two years of the program are expected to save 33,000 acres of farm and range lands at risk of development through 27 conservation easements in 17 counties. Protecting that farmland is estimated to keep 19 million metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere over a 30-year period (equivalent to taking four million cars off the road for a single year) by preventing sprawl and reducing vehicle miles traveled.

The program will have further impact through the six local government grants it has issued, which assist counties in establishing farmland conservation policies like agricultural land mitigation programs.

Demand for the SALC program outpaced available funding in its first two years.  For example, last year, SALCP received $50 million in requests with $40 million in available funding.

CalCAN, along with American Farmland Trust, California Association of Rural Conservation Districts, Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, and The Nature Conservancy, all had representatives present at the SGC meeting to speak in support of continuing to fund the SALC program.

Next Steps

With approval by the SGC of the 2017 guidelines, the Department of Conservation will soon release a request for grant applications. DOC’s anticipated timeline for the program (subject to change) is below. CalCAN will share updates on our blog as they occur.

Timeline:

April 2017 – Release Solicitation for Projects

June 1, 2017 – Pre-Proposal Concepts Due (Optional for Applicants)

June/July 2017 – Statewide Technical Workshops

August 1, 2017 – Full Proposal Deadline

December 2017 – Recommendations for Award

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