Sustainability is Focus of Solutions from the Land

Solutions From the Land Focuses on Sustainability

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Many California farmers are working toward a more sustainable future, according to Ernie Shea, president of Solutions From the Land.

“We are a North American climate-smart agriculture alliance that has come together with others,” Shea said.

Solutions from the Land, which has partnered with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, is the continental platform for farm and conservation groups that are looking at ways these landscapes can deliver solutions.

Solutions from the Land has been getting a lot of support from California.

“We’ve had the right enabling policy, and you’ve got a lot of that in California,” Shea said.

There have also been significant investments in technology and infrastructure that have allowed systems to deploy at scale. Solutions from the Land is producing wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, biofuels, or types of sustainable, domestically-produced energy sources.

“When we started, we were at about five percent renewables. Today, we’re in the twelve percent range. Twenty-five percent by 2025 is the new target that we established,” Shea explained.

Ernie Shea

“We have to be able to produce food and fiber with less water and with erratic conditions. There is a lot of conversation about how to adapt to these realities when you are right in the epicenter of drought, fire, and floods,” he said.

“Everything has become less predictable. Solutions From the Land is sponsoring state-level conversations around how to become more sustainable, resilient, and how to participate in the low carbon economy, biofuels, and renewable energy,” Shea added.

Carbon sequestration is one of the more exciting new areas of opportunity that are coming for agriculture. The focus is on farmers and what they care about.

“They care about resiliency, profitability, sustainability. An example of one of the pathways that we work on: initiatives like soil health programming,” Shea said.

This helps farmers realize that by improving the health of their soil and the organic content, the crops are doing a better job of soaking up whatever water does fall.

“They’re reducing the need to provide some inputs. They’re sequestering greenhouse gases. They’re delivering global solutions,” Shea explained.

Agricultural Water Use Efficiency & State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program

Agricultural Water Use Efficiency Grant Program

 

Through a competitive grant program, the Agricultural Water Use Efficiency & State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) jointly intend to demonstrate the potential multiple benefits of conveyance enhancements combined with on-farm agricultural water use efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas reductions.

The grant funding provided in this joint program is intended to address multiple goals including:

  1. water use efficiency, conservation and reduction,
  2. greenhouse gas emission reductions,
  3. groundwater protection, and
  4. sustainability of agricultural operations and food production.

It is also anticipated that there will be benefits to water and air quality, groundwater security, surface water conservation, and improved nutrient management and crop health through this program. Excellent proposals will demonstrate the specific regional needs and benefits of their proposals.

Deadline for submitting public comments is September 30, 2016.

Agricultural Water Use Efficiency & State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program – DWR/CDFA Joint RFP public-workshops
Agricultural Water Use Efficiency & State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program – DWR/CDFA Joint RFP Public Workshops

The program will be administered as a competitive grant program and will include a joint application process involving agricultural water suppliers and agricultural operators within the service area.

Projects that enhance and upgrade the supplier’s water conveyance, delivery and water measurement system to allow on-demand and flexible farm-gate deliveries, reduce spills and losses, increase the efficiency, and improve water management. A water supplier’s proposed project must generate State benefits to be eligible for grant funding.

Benefits to the State include:

  • water savings
  • increased in-stream flow or improved flow timing
  • improved water quality; increased energy conservation
  • reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • increased local water supply reliability.

The project must be located within California.
On-farm agricultural operations must achieve both GHG emission reductions and water savings to be eligible for funding. In addition, projects must: (i) use the associated improvements made to the surface water conveyance system proposed by the associated agricultural water supplier as part of the joint application, and (ii) eliminate on-farm groundwater pumping.

To be eligible for funding, projects are not required to be in an adopted Integrated Regional Water Management Plan or to comply with that program, but preference will be given for projects that are.

Save-our-waterThe following entities involved with water management are eligible to apply:  Public agencies, public utilities, federally recognized or state Indian tribes on California’s Tribal consultation list, nonprofit organizations, mutual water companies, and investor-owned utilities regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Applicants that are agricultural water suppliers and/or urban water suppliers should inquire for further information.

DWR has set aside $3 million from Proposition 1 to incentivize the water conveyance component of this joint agricultural water use efficiency and enhancement program. Proposition 1 requires that agricultural water suppliers provide a 50% cost share of total project costs.

CDFA has also set aside $3 million from the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) to incentivize the installation of irrigation systems that save water and reduce greenhouse gases on farms in the area that will directly benefit from the conveyance system incentivized by DWR. The maximum grant award per agricultural operation is $200,000 with a recommended, but not required, 50% match of the total project cost. CDFA reserves the right to offer an award different than the amount requested.

Separate contracts with each department will be necessary to receive both sets of funds. A joint proposal may include a request for up to $3 million for the water supplier’s conveyance upgrades (to be funded by DWR) and up to $3 million for enhancements of on-farm agricultural operations to be funded by CDFA (with a cap of $200,000 per operation). This would allow for 15 agricultural operations (at $200,000 each) to partner with the water supplier to submit the joint proposal at the maximum award amount of $6 million. More than 15 agricultural operations could be funded if amounts lower than the cap are requested in individual agricultural operator applications.