U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (both D-CA) have praised Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s announcement that California’s Central Valley has been selected as one of eight critical conservation areas (CCA) under the USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Senator Boxer posted that the designation comes after the Members urged him in a letter to designate the Valley a CCA.
Authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill, the CCA program will provide businesses, non-profits, universities, and federal, state and local governments opportunities to partner with agricultural and conservation groups to invest in innovative water and soil conservation projects.
“The Central Valley is the breadbasket of the world, home to millions of Californians and a rich habitat for fish and wildlife. But drought and other environmental challenges threaten to devastate the region. Designating the Valley a critical conservation area will provide much-needed resources to supplement ongoing conservation efforts. This support will help preserve the Valley as a key source of food, safeguard its role as a driver of California’s economy and protect the area for Californians and wildlife alike,” Senator Feinstein said.
“I thank the Obama Administration for selecting the California Bay Delta and the Central Valley as a Critical Conservation Area,” Senator Boxer said. “This designation will support innovative projects to help our farmers during a time of historic drought, while also promoting soil and water conservation to ensure that the Central Valley remains vibrant and productive for decades to come.”
The designation of the Central Valley (the Bay-Delta Critical Conservation Area) as a CCA acknowledges the importance of the Valley in the nation’s food supply and the difficult challenges the region faces. It produces one-quarter of the nation’s food, representing $17 billion in annual economic revenue.
At over 450 miles in length and 60 miles at its widest point, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service reports it is the largest patch of Class I soil in the world, and enjoys a productive growing climate nearly all year. It’s the source of our country’s most nutritious crops, with more than 250 varieties of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and grains.
Noteworthy for its agricultural productivity, ecological diversity, and complexity, the Bay Delta is one of the largest and most complex water delivery systems in the nation. The Sacramento River and San Joaquin River meet in the Delta, which provides water to one of the most significant estuary ecosystems in the United States and provides drinking water to 25 million Californians.
The Central Valley is also home to more than 6.8 million Californians, as well as 55 species of fish and 750 species of plants and wildlife, including migratory bird populations.
The Valley currently faces significant hardship as a result of historic drought and other environmental stressors – making it all the more vital that resources be directed to the area that benefit watershed restoration, improve air quality and soil management, and create resiliency in our agricultural system.