State Awards Nearly $57 Million to Conserve Agricultural Lands

​December 18, 2019

SACRAMENTO – The California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) today awarded nearly $57 million for agricultural land use planning and land conservation to promote infill development and keep the state’s valuable farm and ranch lands available for agricultural production.

The investment of California cap-and-trade dollars in the fifth round of SGC’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC) will fund six planning grants and 31 agricultural conservation easements in regions across the state.

“We are thrilled that these funds will enable California communities to conserve and protect more than 20,000 acres of agricultural land in California,” said Louise Bedsworth, SGC’s Executive Director. “These Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program investments align with the California Strategic Growth Council’s vision for healthy, thriving, resilient communities for all by promoting infill development, and ensuring that our farm and ranch lands remain available to produce food, and capture and store carbon.”

SGC awarded just over $55.5 million to land trusts and local governments working with farm and ranch owners to implement agricultural easements to conserve their properties. These projects were selected based on their risk of being converted to other uses, their potential to promote infill development, as well as their agricultural, economic, and ecological values. Projects were funded in 19 counties, from Plumas County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south. Together, these easements will protect 20,864 acres. 

“California’s agricultural land not only produces $50 billion in revenue for the state – not to mention food that sustains us – but they are also critical in the fight against climate change,” said Kate Gordon, who as Director of the Office of Planning and Research and the Governor’s Senior Advisor on Climate, serves as Chair of SGC. “Conserving and managing our valuable working lands can reduce and sequester carbon emissions while building our resilience to climate impacts like droughts, floods, wildfires, sea level rise, and extreme heat. Preserving these lands is a win-win for California.”

The Council also awarded just over $1.4 million in planning grants to help local governments prepare to conserve agricultural lands while planning for increased housing and other critical needs. See a complete list of conservation easements and planning grants awarded in SALC Round 5​ (PDF)​.

SALC planning grantees from previous funding rounds have proven the value of these grants. For example, the Santa Clara Open Space Authority (SCOSA) used its 2015 SALC grant to make significant inroads in developing a county-wide agricultural plan, which identifies priority conservation areas.

“SALC has been a game-changer for Santa Clara County,” said Andrea Mackenzie, General Manager of the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority. “We’ve been able to effectively leverage SALC funding to promote the multiple benefits of protecting farmland and rangelands and strengthen local policies and programs to support on the ground conservation of working lands as a climate strategy.”

In 2018, SALC awarded three agricultural easements to SCOSA to help implement part of its agricultural plan.

Given their value to local agricultural land conservation efforts, SGC seeks to increase access to SALC planning grants and has allocated additional funding to provide technical assistance to interested local governments.

 SGC launched the SALC Program in 2014 and collaborates with the Department of Conservation to identify potential projects through a competitive process. Including these latest grants, the program has awarded approximately $180.9 million to land trusts and local governments to fund agricultural conservation efforts that have protected more than 112,500 acres – an area larger than the cities of Sacramento, Fresno, or Bakersfield.

“Through the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation program, the State of California is working to ensure that rural areas more strategically figure into regional sustainability and that our agricultural lands remain prosperous,” said California Department of Conservation Director David Shabazian. “This program recognizes the diversity of economic and environmental benefits provided by working lands, and each grant results in a success story.”