Release: A Progress Report on the California Healthy Soils Program

Posted on Tuesday, December 1st, 2020 by Brian Shobe

Today—the second day of California Healthy Soils Week—CalCAN is excited to release a progress report on the first three years of California’s groundbreaking Healthy Soils Program (HSP). Download the report with this link. (Webinar recording here if you weren’t able to join us live!)

Our progress report aims to both inspire and inform those working to scale up and sustain the use of healthy soils practices in California and beyond.

Recognizing the benefits of improved soils management for agriculture and society at large, the state of California established the Healthy Soils Program in 2016. Since its launch, the program has invested nearly $42 million in 640 projects on farms and ranches, including 67 demonstration projects. Farmers’ interest in the program has grown significantly, as evidenced by the six-fold increase in farmer demand for funding since the program began. Despite the fact that the most recent application period opened amidst the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and massive disruption in the agricultural sector, California farmers submitted a record-breaking 614 applications between late February and early May 2020.

This unprecedented investment and farmer interest in on-farm, soil health-based climate solutions merits both celebration and analysis, as rapidly scaling up these solutions is necessary to achieve many of the state’s objectives, including the natural and working lands climate and biodiversity goals recently articulated in Governor Newsom’s Executive Order.

California’s Healthy Soils Program has also sparked interest nationally. Responding to this interest, CalCAN launched the National Healthy Soils Policy Network in early 2018, a group of 22 farmer-centered organizations that advocate for state healthy soils policies. Several Network members, and others around the country, are advancing a variety of policy proposals to incentivize healthy soils practices. A summary of the status and focus of healthy soils bills in the U.S. is available on a frequently updated webpage managed by Tufts University. Some of these states have borrowed language and various program design elements from California.


In our report, we provide a brief overview and history of HSP, discuss notable achievements and program elements worth replicating in other states, and identify opportunities for program improvements that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is well positioned to address. The findings and recommendations in the report are based on analysis of the latest program data available from CDFA and years of engagement with HSP implementation, including interviews, surveys, and focus groups with farmers, technical assistance providers and scientific experts between 2017 and 2020.

We hope you read the report, let us know what you think, and then join us in advocating for the Healthy Soils Program here in California and other similar policies and programs around the country. Email Brian(at) to be in touch.

CalCAN is one of California’s leading champions for the Healthy Soils Program, in addition to the state’s other Climate Smart Agriculture programs. This report, like all our work, the experiences and knowledge of many farmer and rancher advisors and other agriculture experts on the ground were central to the process. When you support CalCAN you help elevate these voices. On this #GivingTuesday, can you support CalCAN with a donation to continue advancing agricultural solutions to climate change? You can donate here

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