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New CDFA Planning Grant Program Open for Comments

by Jane Sooby |

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is accepting public comment through June 15 on the funding rules for its new Conservation Agriculture Planning Grant Program.  Please consider making a comment using the points outlined below.

An outcome of CCOF’s advocacy for CDFA support for organic farmers in its Climate Smart Agriculture programs, this new program received $20 million in Governor Gavin Newsom’s May revision of the state budget.

As proposed, the planning grant program would offer funding for 11 Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs) developed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and for carbon farm plans. One of the CAPs proposed to be funded is the Conservation Activity Plan Supporting Organic Transition, which develops a conservation plan for the farm in addition to an Organic System Plan.

However, the program does not offer funding to develop a standalone Organic System Plan, nor does it offer funding for other types of plans that would provide climate benefits. In addition, funds currently are proposed to be disbursed to technical assistance providers rather than directly to farmers and ranchers.

Please join CCOF and other advocacy groups in commenting on the proposed planning grant program to make the following points:

  • Add California farmers and ranchers as eligible entities to apply for planning grants and select the qualified technical assistance provider of their choice. Farmers and ranchers should be empowered to determine what type of climate smart agriculture plan is most appropriate for their farm and to identify qualified planners of their choice to create these plans.
  • Ensure the program effectively supports organic transition by making standalone organic system plans eligible.
  • Include state-certified crop and pest management advisors as eligible entities to apply for planning grants.
  • Rather than using set payment rates, reimburse farmers and technical assistance providers for the full cost of planning.
  • Broaden the types of plans eligible for funding to include other plans that verify a grower is using practices that improve soil health, sequester carbon, and/or protect biodiversity and pollinator health such as Sustainability in Practice and Bee Better certifications.

Public comments on the Draft Request for Proposals for the new Conservation Agriculture Planning Grants Program can be submitted to through June 15, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

For additional information, contact CCOF Senior Policy & Outreach Specialist Jane Sooby.