Climate Smart Agriculture Year End Roundup: New Funding, Program Changes

Posted on Friday, December 21st, 2018 by Jeanne Merrill

It has been a busy and productive year for CalCAN and our partners working on California’s Climate Smart Agriculture programs.  There have been a number of changes to the suite of programs, which you can read about below.

The next round of available program funding will be announced this month for Healthy Soils, the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, the Alternative Manure Management Program and the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program. Read on for more details on funding.

Also this month, the Brown administration will release its final California Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan. It is clear from the climate science that the state will not achieve its ambitious climate change goals without greater investment and strategic expansion of natural and working lands climate change solutions. We anticipate the new plan posting here by the end of this month. We will do a blog in the new year with our analysis of it.

Thank you for all who joined us in advocating for funding and strong implementation of the Climate Smart Agriculture programs this year. With your help, we restored funding for Healthy Soils and SWEEP, passed AB 2377, defended the integrity of the Healthy Soils program, secured demonstration project funding for AMMP, developed new Governor recommendations and much, much more.

We look forward to working with you and many of our partners in the new year to further our efforts for sustainable agricultural solutions to climate change.

micro-sprinkler irrigating orchard
Photo credit: USDA NRCS

State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP)

Started in 2014 in response to the drought, SWEEP has now funded 614 projects, for a total of nearly $63 million invested. The program helps farmers upgrade their irrigation systems to be more energy and water-efficient. Read stories of some of those farmers.

CalCAN published a policy brief this year reviewing SWEEP’s impacts to-date and making 11 recommendations to improve the program based on interviews with SWEEP technical assistance providers, application reviewers and farmers. Check out our SWEEP Policy Brief.

We anticipate CDFA releasing the next SWEEP request for applications on December 28, 2018, with applications due on March 8, 2019.  See more on CDFA’s SWEEP webpage. $9.5 million will be available.  Individual project proposals can receive up to $100,000.

New this year: There will be a new online application platform for SWEEP, which CDFA created to improve the application’s user-friendliness. Resource Conservation Districts (RCD), UC Cooperative Extension, and some non-profits will offer more technical assistance than ever to help farmers with the application process. Check with your local RCD or Farm Advisor to see if they can assist you in applying or refer you to the nearest technical assistance provider who can. Also this year, CDFA’s project selection process will prioritize farmers and ranchers located in severely disadvantaged communities and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as defined in the Farmer Equity Act, though all producers are encouraged to apply.

Jackson Family Wines

Healthy Soils Program (HSP)

Launched in the fall of 2017, the Healthy Soils Program has funded 112 projects, 28 of which are demonstration projects, for a total of $6.3 million invested. The program aims to help farmers use soil and woody biomass management practices to increase carbon sinks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You can access a list of upcoming Healthy Soils demonstration project field days at the bottom of this page, which CDFA periodically updates. The most popular practices incentivized thus far are cover crops, compost, mulch, and hedgerow plantings. Read stories of some of the Healthy Soils Program grant recipients.

Like SWEEP, we anticipate CDFA releasing the next request for Healthy Soils applications on December 28, 2018, with applications due on March 8, 2019.  See more details on CDFA’s HSP webpage. $15 million will be available with project grants of up to $75,000 per operation.

New this year: The program will now pay for all three years of implementing a practice (CDFA has removed the 3rd year cost-share requirement). New eligible practices under the program include prescribed grazing, application of compost produced on-farm, conservation crop rotation, and range planting. CDFA has also increased the payment rate for compost application to cropland or grassland from $35/dry ton to $50/dry ton. Similar to SWEEP, CDFA will have a new online application platform, much more technical assistance will be available, and the project selection process will prioritize farmers and ranchers located in severely disadvantaged communities and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as defined in the Farmer Equity Act, though all producers are encouraged to apply.

Dairy cows in green pasture Credit USDA NRCS
Photo Credit: USDA NRCS

Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP)

Begun in 2017, AMMP has funded 58 projects for a total $31.2 million invested so far. The program funds dairy and livestock producers to change their manure handling and storage in ways that reduce methane emissions and improve environmental outcomes overall.

Eligible AMMP practices include converting from flush to scrape management and/or manure solids separation in combination with composting or other dry manure storage options. Other practices include construction of compost bedded pack barns and converting to or extending animal time on pastures. Read about AMMP farmer recipients.

We anticipate CDFA releasing the next request for applications on December 28, 2018, with applications due on April 3, 2019.  See more details on CDFA’s AMMP website. Between $19 million and $33 million will be available.  Individual projects can apply for up to $750,000.

New this year: CDFA announced in November that they would make demonstration project funding available for the first time under AMMP. This will allow RCDs, Extension and others to work with AMMP producers to host field days and conduct outreach and education to dairy and livestock producers about the multiple benefits of AMMP practices. More details on the demonstration project requirements will be made available on Dec. 28th when the grant guidelines are released.

Photo credit: Asha Elizabeth Gupta

Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP)

Since 2015, SALCP has awarded nearly $124 million for 60 easement projects, protecting 90,000 acres of farm and rangeland at risk of urban sprawl or rural ranchette development. In addition to conservation easements on agricultural lands, the program funds local government planning projects to improve farmland conservation.  Read stories here of some of the farmers involved with the program.

The Strategic Growth Council approved the FY 2018-19 program guidelines at their recent December meeting. The Department of Conservation is now accepting pre-proposals for SALCP projects through April 17, 2019. Pre-proposals are required for conservation easement projects and are not required, but encouraged for the local government planning grants. Full proposals are due September 13, 2019.

New this year: The Department of Conservation is making technical assistance available to support local governments in applying for the SALCP planning grants. More on that can be found here.  New in 2019 will be greater flexibility in project design for the local government planning grants to encourage more cities and counties, along with special districts, to apply for the funding. A few technical changes were made to the easement funding for the program, including making it easier for land trusts to handle increases in appraisal values and still have adequate funding for their projects.

photo credit: USDA NRCS

Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program

With its first round of funding this year, the Wildlife Conservation Board started the new Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program.  We expect the first round of awards to be announced soon. The program funds conservation easements and planning, implementation, and technical assistance projects on natural and working lands that result in enduring climate adaptation benefits to wildlife. Of the $20 million available, at least $12 million is expected to go to grants for the acquisition of perpetual conservation easements and long-term conservation agreements that conserve natural and working lands for at least 50 years.

CalCAN advocated for the inclusion in the program of projects relevant to agriculture, such as the establishment of hedgerows, field buffers, shelterbelts and windbreaks, riparian habitat restoration, conservation cover, and forage and biomass plantings. We will do an analysis of the grant awards when they come out and post it to our blog, so stay tuned.

photo credit: CAFF

Climate Ready Program

The California State Coastal Conservancy launched the Climate Ready Program in 2014 to support multi-benefit projects that use natural systems to assist communities in adapting to the impacts of climate change. The program has awarded $10.7 million over five rounds to 57 projects (see the list and descriptions here), including a number of coastal agriculture projects.

Awards for the fifth round were just announced this week. We plan to do a deeper analysis of all the awards in the new year and will share that along with any updates on the timing of the next round, which will have $3 million for FY 2018-19.

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