The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced last week that the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) will make available approximately $40 million for block grants, incentivizing agricultural operations to invest in irrigation systems that increase water use efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The remainder of the funding allocated in last year’s budget (approximately $30 million) for the program will be distributed later through CDFA’s traditional direct-to-farmer grant approach.
For examples of previously funded SWEEP projects, check out the “Conserving Water & Energy” section of CalCAN’s Farmer Stories Page.
SWEEP’s on-farm projects often include conversion to micro sprinkler or drip irrigation, the replacement of diesel-powered irrigation pumps with electric and solar-powered pumps, the installation of variable frequency drives to reduce energy use and better match pump flow to load requirements, and the use of remote soil moisture and evapotranspiration sensors to improve irrigation scheduling. Not surprisingly, the program has been very popular with farmers. Farmer demand has consistently been three times higher than available funding in the 9 years since the program was established. Other benefits of SWEEP projects include:
- Lower water and energy bills and less weed pressure for farmers
- Improved water quality from reduced runoff and nitrate leaching
- Improved air quality from more efficient and solar-powered irrigation pumps
- Reduced nitrous oxide emissions (a potent greenhouse gas) from more precise water application
The purpose of this pilot block grant program is to test whether block grantees can accelerate the disbursement of the unprecedented volume of funds CDFA received in the past two budget cycles, better coordinate technical assistance, and better address local and regional needs. For example, the block grant guidelines allow block grant recipients to prioritize project types that fulfill specific needs of the farmers and region they serve.
Under the block grant pilot program, qualified organizations, such as Resource Conservation Districts, Irrigation Districts, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies, and agricultural non-profit organizations, may apply for state funding and, if awarded, then disburse funds to eligible farmers, ranchers, or agricultural operations for on-farm projects. Eligible entities may request between $2 million and $5 million for each program.
To learn more about the program requirements and the application process, CDFA will hold two webinar-based workshops next week:
- Tuesday, May 2, 2023, from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. PT – Registration link
- Wednesday, May 3, 2023, from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. PT – Registration link
For more information on SWEEP Block Grant eligibility and program requirements, prospective applicants should visit the SWEEP website. Please note that applications are due by 5 p.m. PT on Monday, June 19, 2023.
General questions regarding the solicitation process may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Responses to all questions received by email will be posted to CDFA’s SWEEP website according to the following schedule.