Oct 10, 2022New grant could help pay for conservation practices for CA farmers
Planning for big conservation projects on farms and ranches can be expensive. Whether it’s updating an irrigation system to save water, planting and expanding habitat for native pollinators, mitigating or adapting to the effects of climate change, or contemplating new approaches to pest management, the costs can quickly add up.
Fortunately for growers in California, the state Department of Food and Agriculture has recently set aside $15 million to help offset the cost of planning and implementing big projects. Called the Conservation Agriculture Planning Grants Program, it will help growers develop plans for conservation and other environmental stewardship practices.
To apply, growers will need to partner with experts, such as CCAs, PCAs and RCDs, that qualify for writing plans under this program. Applicants may apply for up to $250,000 to prepare conservation agriculture plans in these areas relevant to almond growing:
- Agricultural energy design
- Carbon farm planning
- Irrigation water management
- Nutrient management
- Organic transition
- Pollinator habitat
- Pest management
- Soil health management
- Fish and wildlife habitat
Applications may be submitted on the CDFA website. The deadline is 5 p.m. PT on Oct. 23, 2022. Award funding will be announced in January. A portion of the money is targeted for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
“This program tries to jumpstart planning among farmers and ranchers in California who might be thinking about making some changes to their operation,” said Jesse Roseman, principal analyst for regulatory and environmental affairs for the Almond Board of California.
For almond growers, the new funding stream provides money to pay for work done by qualified experts to create plans that could have a long-term impact on farm operations.
“You can actually get funding to do multiple plans,” Roseman explained. “It’s a flat payment rate. If you were to get the award, you would work with your expert, develop the plan and go back to CDFA to get the funding. There is some upfront funding, but that’s generally how it works. You could come out the other side with multiple plans for your farm.”
With so many different kinds of projects potentially eligible for funding, Roseman strongly encourages growers to consider if the new grant might be right for them.
“I think it’s a positive if farmers are thinking about making infrastructure changes or other cropping-type changes such as cover crops, pollinators, any on-farm energy changes, creating habitat, pest management improvements or even trying to take advantage of some funding that might be available by doing what are called carbon farm plans,” he said. “I think this is a low-risk opportunity for a grower to get an expert to look at their farm, develop the plan and see if the projects in the resulting plan are a good fit.”
Investing the time and money now to create multiple conservation-related plans — especially if the state is helping to pick up the bill — could pay off in the future if growers use the plan to apply for other project implementation grants through programs such as Healthy Soils, SWEEP and NRCS EQIP, according to Roseman.
“You might reach out to experts you already work with or who you know are active in your area, whether it’s with a resource conservation district or cooperative extension or a PCA or a CCA and just say, ‘Let’s take a look at this program and see if it’s something that we would want to apply for,’” he said. “There’s no commitment once you have the plan to follow through and make these changes, but it’s a good way to get an idea of what those changes would be. Then you’re well set up if you want to take it further and apply for one of the CDFA programs or go to NRCS. Now, you have a good idea of a starting point for your application request.”
– Almond Board of California