Application Period Open for Record $25 Million Round of Healthy Soils Program — Here’s What You Need to Know

Posted on Thursday, February 27th, 2020 by Brian Shobe

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) opened the application period for its Healthy Soils Program (HSP) today. A record $25 million is available – up from $14 million last year. It’s a good time to apply to the Healthy Soils Program.

CDFA has made a number of exciting improvements to the program in response to stakeholder feedback. Here’s what you need to know:

25+ Eligible Healthy Soils Practices: The Healthy Soils Program provides incentives grants of up to $100,000 (new!) to farmers to implement practices that improve soil health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and sequester carbon. Over 25 practices are eligible in the program, including compost application, cover cropping, prescribed grazing, mulch, reduced-tillage, hedgerows, riparian plantings, and a number of other conservation plantings. New this year:

  • Whole orchard recycling is now an eligible practice.
  • CDFA will allow previously implemented healthy soils practices to be implemented on a new, different field within the same (previously funded) Assessor Parcel Number (APN).

4-Month Rolling Application Period with a First-Come, First-Serve Award Process for Incentives Grants (new!): CDFA is introducing a rolling application period over four months on a first-come, first-serve basis until all funds are awarded. This will allow those applicants who are ready with projects to apply immediately and get their applications reviewed. At the same time, those who need additional time to plan their project will be allowed more time to review the application material and determine the best fit for their agricultural operations. Note: Demonstration projects have a shorter timeline and different process. See CDFA’s Demonstration Projects page for more details.

Free, Comprehensive Technical Assistance Available (new!): Thanks to the passage of the CalCAN-sponsored AB 2377 (Irwin) and funding from Strategic Growth Council, a record 43 technical assistance (TA) providers are available to support farmers in learning about the program, designing projects, preparing applications, and even implementing awarded projects and completing required paperwork for CDFA. We strongly encourage farmers to take advantage of these technical assistance providers’ expertise and free services.

Check out the full list of 43 TA providers, broken down by region.

Easier, Streamlined Application (new!): The Healthy Soils Program team at CDFA has reduced the number of questions and attachments required in the incentives grant application by doing the following:

  • Eliminating most short-essay questions from the application
  • Eliminating the budget worksheet by incorporating payment rates into the COMET-Planner Tool
  • Developing a new Integrated Mapping Tool that allows applicants to draw their fields on a map and provide CDFA with several pieces of required application information at once, including field location and size, conservation practices to be implemented, and AB 1550 Priority Populations status.

Payment Rates (updated!): To better align the Healthy Soils Program with USDA’s EQIP program, the 2020 USDA Conservation Practice Standard Payment rates have been adopted. As a result, payment rates have increased for 11 practices and reduced for 16 practices.

The Healthy Soils Program was the nation’s first state-level program to incentivize farmers to fight climate change directly by improving soil health and sequestering carbon. You can help us scale up farmer-centered solutions to climate change in three ways:

  • Apply! If you’re a farmer or rancher, the #1 thing you can do is apply for the program. Getting projects on the ground and proving there’s strong demand for this program helps us advocate for more funding.
  • Share and re-tweet this blog from our Facebook and Twitter! There are many farmers and ranchers in California who still haven’t heard about this program. Help us make sure they have the chance to benefit from this exciting opportunity.
  • Distribute our flyer! You can email our Healthy Soils Incentive Program flyer to farmers and ranchers you know. Or you can print it out and distribute it to farmers and ranchers at your local farmers market!
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