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Soils and soil amendments Tim Hearden
Planting soils and amendments are displayed at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif.

Changes set for next round of Healthy Soils grants

Approximately $25.2 million is available in this round

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is accepting applicationss for the next round of Healthy Soils Program projects. Approximately $25.2 million is available in this round.

There are several new programmatic changes that aim to make the application process easier, provide enhanced tools to assist with information required in the application, and achieve better alignment with USDA programs

“These changes are critical to ensure we receive as many applications as possible,” said CDFA secretary Karen Ross. “We want to make sure our farmers and ranchers can participate in carbon sequestration and help establish agricultural sustainability into the future.”

To better align the Healthy Soils Program with USDA's EQIP program, the 2020 USDA Conservation Practice Standard Payment rates will be adopted. As a result, payment rates have increased for 11 practices and reduced for 16 practices. CDFA is currently engaged in initiating research work with scientists and economists to evaluate Ecosystem Services or Co-benefits payment rates for each practice.

“The NRCS is delighted to partner with CDFA leadership to further soil health initiatives to better support California farmers and ranchers,” said USDA NRCS State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. “The CDFA Healthy Soils Program supports NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which furthers the Soil Health initiative.”

Changes coming

Other changes are as follows:

Technical Assistance – Thanks to the Strategic Growth Council, CDFA is funding $4.36 million to continue to build out its capacity to offer technical assistance. This technical assistance offered through non-profit organizations, Resources Conservation Districts, and University of California Cooperative Extension Service (UC ANR) is free to farmers and ranchers who might need help gathering required information to apply  and assistance filling out online grant applications. Free technical assistance is also available to farmers and ranchers during project implementation and reporting. All designated providers of technical assistance will be posted on the CDFA Technical Assistance webpage. CDFA encourages farmers and ranchers to utilize these free services.

Inclusion of Budgetary Payments in the COMET-Planner Tool – Thanks to a collaboration between USDA NRCS, Colorado State University, the California Air Resources Board and CDFA, the COMET-Planner tool has been updated to include payment rates by USDA NRCS. This new function eliminates the need for farmers and ranchers to complete an additional separate budget worksheet in the application.

Utilization of Re-Plan Tool for Agricultural Field Identification – Thanks to a collaboration between the Strategic Growth Council and CDFA, the Regional Conservation Planning and Development Tool (Re-Plan) will be utilized to allow for applicants to identify several important required reporting parameters, including field location and size, conservation practices to be implemented, and AB 1550 Priority Populations.

Easier Electronic Application – The Healthy Soils Program team at CDFA has worked to reduce the number of questions in the electronic application. As a result, the new application is more streamlined. 

Rolling Application Period with First-Come Award Process – CDFA is introducing a rolling application period over four months on a first-come, first-serve basis until all funds are awarded. This will allow those applicants who are ready with projects to apply immediately and get their applications reviewed. At the same time, those who need additional time to plan their project will be allowed more time to review the application material and determine the best fit for their agricultural operations.

A statewide program

The Healthy Soils Program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing GHG emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.

The Cap-and-Trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution.

California Climate Investments projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, sustainable agriculture, recycling and much more.

At least 35 percent of these investments are located within and benefiting residents of disadvantaged communities, low-income communities and low-income households across California. For more information, visit California Climate Investments.

The Healthy Soils grant program has two components: the HSP Incentives Program and the HSP Demonstration Projects:

HSP Incentives Program
The HSP Incentives Program will accept applications on a rolling basis until 5 p.m. PT on June 26, 2020 or until available funds are expended, whichever is earlier. California farmers and ranchers, as well as federal and California-recognized Native American Tribes are eligible to apply. For additional information on eligibility and program requirements, prospective applicants should visit www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/healthysoils/incentivesprogram.html.

CDFA will hold three no-cost workshops to provide information on incentive program requirements and the application process. Participants can attend in-person or remotely by registering for webinar access:

• March 5, 2020: 10:30 a.m. – noon
Glenn County Office of Education, Grapevine Room
311 S. Villa Ave., Willows, CA 95988
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1617504055016091147

• March 9, 2020: 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner Office, Room Demo
1720 S Maple Ave, Fresno, CA 93702
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8158593286632286733

• March 16, 2020: 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Office, Conference Room
1428 Abbott St., Salinas, CA
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6529026894315030029

Additionally, there is free technical assistance for prospective incentive program applicants provided by CDFA-funded Technical Assistance Providers and Climate Smart Agriculture Community Education Specialists at the University of California Cooperative Extension. For details, please visit: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/healthysoils/IncentivesProgram.html and https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/technical/index.html.

HSP Demonstration Projects
The HSP Demonstration Projects showcase California farmers’ and ranchers’ implementation of HSP soil health practices. Demonstration projects enable awardees to help support widespread adoption of soil health management practices throughout the state. Not-for-profits, University Cooperative Extension, federal and university experiment stations, Resource Conservation Districts, federal and California-recognized Native American Indian Tribes, and farmers and ranchers in collaboration with these entities are eligible to apply.

The HSP Demonstration Projects applications are due by 5 p.m. PT on Thursday, April 23, 2020. Late submissions will not be accepted.

For information on eligibility and program requirements, visit https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/healthysoils/DemonstrationProjects.html.

CDFA will hold three no-cost workshops to provide information on program requirements and the application process. Participants can attend in-person or remotely by registering for webinar access:

• March 5, 2020: 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Glenn County Office of Education, Grapevine Room
311 S. Villa Ave., Willows, CA 95988
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4298861071440913931

• March 9, 2020: 2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner Office, Room Demo
1720 S Maple Ave, Fresno, CA 93702
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1518913046353556237

• March 16, 2020: 2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Office, Conference Room
1428 Abbott St., Salinas, CA
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7220627404767556365

Source: California Department of Food and Agriculture, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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