Sacramento — Today, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced its selection of over 300 of the state’s farms and ranches to receive Healthy Soils Program incentive grants totaling approximately $22 million. The project awards announced today will support a variety of soil health practices on over 30,000 acres and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 73,800 tons of carbon dioxide, roughly equivalent to the emissions of 8 million gallons of gasoline. See the full list of awarded projects.
“Planting a hedgerow might not seem like the most exciting thing to do, but honestly we couldn’t be more thrilled,” writes Krissy Scommegna of the Boonville Barn Collective, who was announced as a recipient of one of the Healthy Soils grants today. “With the help of the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, we’ve put together an incredible mix of plant species that will not only sequester carbon on the edge of our property, but provide habitat for native pollinators (and our new bee hive!) and provide our crops a break from the wind and dust. As the next generation taking the lead of the family farm business, we’re excited to be investing in our soils through the help of the CDFA.”
Despite all the challenges producers are facing right now during the coronavirus crisis, including market disruptions and protecting the health of their employees, California’s farmers and ranchers submitted a record-shattering 578 Healthy Soils Program incentives applications requesting a total of nearly $38 million. Combined with an additional 39 demonstration project applications requesting nearly $6 million, demand for the Healthy Soils Program was more than 3 times higher than one year ago and more than 6 times higher than just two years ago (see graph below).
A number of factors have contributed to a greater number of farmers seeking out the climate smart agriculture program, including:
- Increased funding for outreach and comprehensive technical assistance that resulted from the passage of a CalCAN-sponsored bill in 2018 (AB 2377, Irwin)
- A number of improvements CDFA made to the program in response to stakeholder feedback
- Vigorous outreach conducted early in the year by dozens of technical assistance providers and non-profits, including CalCAN
- Growing awareness in the farming community of the program and the economic and resilience benefits of soil health practices
This exciting news comes at a time when the state legislature is actively considering how to prioritize investments in what will be a tough budget year ahead. The strong farmer demand for the Healthy Soils Program during the pandemic demonstrates the program remains an important resource for farmers and ranchers throughout the state.
Most importantly today, congratulations to the farmers and ranchers in our network who have been selected for grants, along with the many technical assistance providers who assisted them. We look forward to hearing your stories of implementing these grants. For examples of past Healthy Soils Program projects and recipients, check out our Farmer Leaders profiles.