The Department of Conservation (DOC), on behalf of the Strategic Growth Council, recently released its latest call for applications for the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP).
This marks the sixth year of the program, which funds conservation easements and now fee title projects to protect vulnerable agricultural lands from sprawl and rural ranchette development. The program also supports local government efforts to improve farmland conservation planning and policy development.
Since 2014, SALCP has permanently protected more than 100,000 acres of agricultural land in California. That’s more than double the acres of farmland the state help to protect in the previous twenty years.
You can find the timeline with pre-proposals and full proposal deadlines here. Here is a summary of the changes made to the program in 2020:
- DOC will pilot funding of fee title projects (see page 12). This is especially important in urban edge communities where land values are high and there is not a strong incentive for farmers to place a conservation easement on their land. Fee title projects will have to maintain the land in agriculture to qualify for SALCP funding.
- DOC narrowed the “Risk Options” that are used to determine whether the proposed conserved land is at risk of sprawl or rural ranchette development. CalCAN supports this change as it will more clearly focus funding on those lands most at risk of conversion to non-agricultural uses.
- After much stakeholder feedback, DOC agreed to drop its minimum deed terms requirement.
- Selection criteria points for evaluating projects were changed to better focus on protecting lands that support in-fill development. CalCAN supports this change.
- DOC will make additional funding available to interested landowners who receive a SALCP grant to develop a conservation management plan. CalCAN supports this change but would like to see stronger efforts to bridge the SALCP program with other Climate Smart agriculture programs, like the Healthy Soils Program and more.
- Finally, for the planning grants, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies, Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Councils of Government are now eligible applicants. CalCAN will be evaluating this change to the planning grants to see if it results in better land use policy change to support farmland conservation and in-fill development.
You can find the SALCP program guidelines and application information here.
Later this year, CalCAN will release its evaluation of SALCP and its companion Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program. Stay tuned.