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American Farmland Trust, USDA NRCS and Others Partner on $24.2 Million Collaboration to Protect California’s San Joaquin Valley

 

It’s hard to overstate the importance of California’s San Joaquin Valley towards providing food for the nation. More than 300 crops and livestock products are produced here, accounting for more than half of the agricultural output of the country’s leading farming state. It’s one of California’s fastest growing regions, with a population of 4.3 million that’s expected to increase more than 50% by 2050. There is an urgent need for coordinated action towards protecting the region’s farmland while conserving water resources. This is particularly true in prolonged drought years and with the implementation of California’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

For more than 35 years, AFT has worked alongside the agricultural community, public officials, and partner organizations to promote economic growth that minimizes the loss of the region’s best agricultural land while demonstrating environmentally sound agricultural practices. In fact, our first regional office was in Visalia in southern San Joaquin Valley.

Now, AFT is excited to announce the creation of a new San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Conservation Collaborative as the next stage of its comprehensive San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Strategy. This will be funded by a $10 million Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP, grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, NRCS. AFT will collaborate with The Freshwater Trust, Conservation Biology Institute, California Farmland Trust, and Resource Conservation Districts in East Stanislaus, East Merced, Madera/Chowchilla, Sierra, and Tulare counties on the ambitious five-year initiative.  AFT and partners are matching this investment with another $14.2 million for local and state funding sources.

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. The San Joaquin Valley Conservation Collaborative is a group 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.

The 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.

AFT is thrilled to be spearheading this effort in the nation’s largest agricultural region.

About the Author
Kara Heckert

California Regional Director

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