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Free Grant Assistance for Growers Now Available

Growers now have access to free help from UC educational specialists to complete incentive funding applications for soil and water conservation projects.

4/1/2020

UC ANR Community Education Specialists
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources recently partnered with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to place climate smart educators (otherwise known as community education specialists) in ten locations throughout California, including five almond-growing regions. (Not pictured: Samikshya Budhathoki)

(April 3, 2020) – Incentive funding aimed at improving growers’ production practices can be a win-win for the almond industry: These grants offer growers an opportunity to implement innovative technology and systems on their farm at a reduced cost, while also enhancing the economic and environmental sustainability of the broader almond community. 

Thanks to a partnership between the University of California (UC) Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), growers now have access to free assistance when completing applications for two statewide incentive programs related to soil health and water conservation. CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program (HSP) awards growers up to $100,000 per project for implementing conservation techniques that decrease soil erosion and greenhouse gases, while the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) encourages farmers to install more efficient irrigation systems, also with grants up to $100,000. 

“These programs are perfect for a grower interested in trying something new, such as a different technique to improve soil quality or a new irrigation system,” said Shulamit Shroder, a UC ANR Community Education Specialist based in Kern County. 

Shroder and a team of four other UC education specialists across the Central Valley help growers identify projects that meet HSP and SWEEP requirements. They also provide the value-added service of helping growers complete and submit their applications to secure funding for their soil or water improvement projects. Even with COVID-19 restrictions in place, UC ANR field staff are available to work with growers.

While Shroder notes that the application is easy to complete electronically, she said she is happy to work with growers one-on-one by visiting their farm (once concerns over COVID-19 subside, of course).

“The HSP application has been completely revamped, so it is more user-friendly than ever,” Shroder said. “Still, we are happy to sit down with a grower, ask what they need help with on their operation, and go through the application step-by-step.”

Shroder said most growers can finish the application in about 45 minutes if they know some basic information about their operation, such as their assessor’s parcel number (APN).

Growers can use HSP grant funding to implement composting systems or plant hedgerows or cover crops aimed at improving pollinator forage or soil compaction. Past SWEEP grant funding has gone towards installation for micro-irrigation systems, solar panels and variable frequency drives for irrigation pumps. More information about approved HSP and SWEEP practices is available here.

This year, CDFA made a notable addition to the list of approved HSP practices: Whole Orchard Recycling, which involves chipping and reincorporating an old almond orchard into the soil rather than hauling all the biomass off-site for burning. Research funded by the Almond Board of California (ABC) shows multiple benefits of the practice, such as increased soil organic matter and soil structure, the addition of carbon into the soil, and improved water retention and infiltration.

“For a practice like Whole Orchard Recycling, the cost of taking out, chipping, deep ripping and then tilling a whole orchard is substantial,” said Josette Lewis, chief scientific officer at ABC. “Having an incentive available for growers to offset that cost is very helpful and ABC continues to work with both state and federal agencies to share research that shows the environmental benefits of new practices. This encourages public incentives, which can assist growers in off-setting up-front costs and promotes wider adoption of sustainable production practices.”

CDFA recently announced that $25.2 million will be awarded to California farmers in this upcoming round of HSP grant funding. The HSP application deadline is June 26, 2020, with applications reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, so interested growers are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

Pending adoption of the state budget, the next round of SWEEP applications will open in Fall 2020, with ABC providing more information as it becomes available.

See the chart below for a list of specialists in California’s almond growing regions who are available to provide free help to growers looking to complete grant applications. Contact your county’s representative today to get the process started!

County

Contact

Email

Phone

Stanislaus, Merced & Madera

Caddie Bergren

cmbergren@ucanr.edu

(209) 385-7403

Glenn

Dana Brady

dmbrady@ucanr.edu  

(530) 517-8187

Yolo, Solano &
Sacramento

Emily Lovell

ejlovell@ucanr.edu 

(530) 405-9777

Fresno

Samikshya Budhathoki

sbudhathoki@ucanr.edu

(559) 241-7515

Kings, Tulare & Kern

Shulamit Shroder sashroder@ucanr.edu (661) 868-6218