Farmer Demand for WaterSmart Program Remains High, Despite Funding Cut in State Budget

Posted on Friday, June 21st, 2019 by Brian Shobe
irrigation overhead Photo credit: CC0 Public Domain

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently announced the latest round of grant awards for the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). Demand for the program remains high with more than 340 farmers applying to the program. CDFA selected 120 agricultural operations to receive a total of $10.3 million to make improvements to their irrigation systems that save water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The 2018 SWEEP list of selected projects is available here.

SWEEP projects may include such practices as conversion to micro or drip irrigation systems, variable frequency drives, solar energy, and soil moisture sensors or weather stations to provide farmers with data that can help them with irrigation scheduling.

CDFA appears to be holding back approximately half of the $20 million the department was allocated by Proposition 68 for a second solicitation. This may be CDFA’s way of ensuring program continuity, given the legislature’s and Governor’s regretful decision two weeks ago not to fund SWEEP in this year’s budget.

The Latest on CalCAN’s Effort to Improve SWEEP

To protect and improve the SWEEP program, CalCAN sponsored AB 1086 this year, which passed out of the Assembly in late May. After multiple discussions and rounds of proposed amendments failed to remove some powerful agricultural lobbying groups’ opposition, the bill stalled in the Senate Agriculture Committee for this year, but will be taken up again next year. In the meantime, CalCAN will continue advocating for restoring the SWEEP budget in the legislature and making improvements to the program’s implementation through CDFA.

Read our most recent analysis of SWEEP.

SWEEP Stories

On our website, CalCAN tells the stories of a number of growers who have received SWEEP grants in the past, one of which is Jacobs Farm in Santa Cruz County. In 2015, Jacobs Farm won a $25,000 grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to make irrigation improvements to their 55-acre farm at Swanton Pacific Ranch in Davenport. According to Greg Rawlings, farm manager at Jacobs Farm and a CalCAN Farmer Advisor, these improvements dramatically reduced watering time and volume, as well as the energy required to pump the water. He estimates that Jacobs Farm “waters two thirds as much time as we used to, and are probably using half of the water.” Read more farmer climate leader stories.

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