Technical assistance is necessary for many farmers and ranchers interested in adopting new practices.
Technical assistance (TA) providers help producers understand and apply the latest science and best practices, facilitate farmer-to-farmer learning, lead on-farm research and demonstration projects, and assist growers with applications for grants and cost share programs.
For many decades the University of California’s Cooperative Extension (UCCE), the state’s 98 Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) and various non-profit organizations have played key roles as TA providers. However, both UCCE and the RCDs suffered significant state budget cuts in the 1990’s and 2000’s, from which they have not recovered, and many non-profit technical service providers are challenged to secure sufficient and reliable philanthropic and public funding to meet the need.
California’s Climate Smart Agriculture programs provide financial resources to encourage farmers and ranchers to adopt farm management practices that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration. However, the programs offer only limited funding for grant application workshops and some one-on-one assistance. This severely limits their effectiveness and reach. Other states and the federal government routinely combine financial incentives with technical assistance and conservation planning. Such an approach is needed in California.
Improved delivery of technical assistance to farmers and ranchers, including outreach and education, project design, grant application assistance and project implementation, will allow for a greater diversity of producers to successfully participate in the Climate Smart Agriculture programs. Increased technical assistance for farmers and ranchers will also improve the overall impact of the Climate Smart Agriculture programs.
Small and moderately-scaled producers, including many women and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, who cannot afford consultants, are especially in need of greater support to improve their participation in the Climate Smart Agriculture programs.
To address this gap in technical assistance resources, in 2018 CalCAN sponsored a bill (AB 2377, Irwin) to allocate a portion of the budgets for three Climate Smart Agriculture programs to technical assistance grants, including a set-aside of 25 percent for socially disadvantaged farmers. Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law after it passed through both State Senate and Assembly with strong, bi-partisan support.