American Farmland Trust and USDA NRCS Partner to Create New $10 Million San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Conservation Collaborative

New funding thelp protect California’s most productive agricultural region, while conserving soil and water resources, protecting critical farmland, and mitigating climate change. 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today, American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food®, has announced the creation of a new San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Conservation Collaborative, which will be funded by a $10 million Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). AFT will collaborate with local NRCS field offices, East Stanislaus, East Merced, Madera/Chowchilla, Sierra (Fresno County) and Tulare County Resource Conservation Districts, the Freshwater Trust (TFT), Conservation Biology Institute (CBI),  and California Farmland Trust (CFT) on the ambitious five-year initiative. 

The San Joaquin Valley is California’s most productive agricultural region, producing more than 300 crops and livestock products that account for more than half of the state’s agricultural output. It also is one of the state’s fastest growing, with a population of 4.3 million expected to increase more than 50% by 2050. There is an urgent need for coordinated action towards protecting the region’s farmland and ranchland while conserving water resources. This is particularly true in prolonged drought years and with evershrinking snowpacks, due to climate change, as well as the implementation of California’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act   

As part of AFT’s comprehensive San Joaquin Land and Water Strategy, the goals of the program are to leverage the collective strength of the group, along with a sophisticated spatial analysis and mapping program, to work with farmers and ranchers to tackle the region’s water challenges and protect the most productive farmland with the greatest groundwater recharge potential, according to NRCS State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. 

The San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Conservation Collaborative seeks to catalyze cooperation in the region to rapidly scale up the implementation of regenerative agricultural practices and to help farmers comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,” said State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. “This effort is building a strong network of partners to ensure the most efficient use of water resourcespromote healthy soils practices and strategically protect valuable agricultural land. American Farmland Trust will also target outreach to historically underserved farmers and ranchers in the regions.”  

AFT has been a leader in the Valley for over 35 years, working with the agricultural community, public officials and partner organizations to promote economic growth that minimizes the loss of the region’s best agricultural land and to support a new generation of farmers and ranchers. At the same time, the organization has promoted sound farming practices that provide cleaner airsoil and water, as well as reduced greenhouse gas emissions, according to Kara Heckert, AFT’s California regional director.  

AFT’s extensive research, planning and policy work, coupled with effective local partnerships, have set the stage to rapidly scale up regenerative agricultural practices and farmland protection throughout the region,” explained Heckert. The San Joaquin Valley Conservation Collaborative is a collaboration of partners, funders, farmers and ranchers working to protect and restore agricultural land in the San Joaquin Valley to ensure resilience to climate change through healthy soils, high-quality surface and groundwater supplies, environmentally sound habitats for fish and wildlife, and a thriving agricultural industry.” 

This collaboration will focus on four elements: data analysis, agricultural conservation easements, conservation planning and on-farm conservation practices. It will deliver conservation plans for increasing groundwater recharge potential and water conservation on lands encompassing at least 100,000 acres with 150 to 200 producers. It also will demonstrate the economic benefits of regenerative agricultural methods, as well as implement best practices for increasing water infiltration and water conservation on at least 23,565 acres of land with at least 80 producers.  

For more information contact American Farmland Trust, Kara Heckert, California regional director at (707) 478-2003, or NRCS Acting Public Affairs Director Victor Hernandez at (530) 792-5628. 

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American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advancing environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families. 

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) mission is “Helping People Help the Land.” NRCS helps America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment. 

About the Author
Teresa O'Connor

California Communications and Outreach Manager

toconnor@farmland.org

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