Industry News Improving a Practice on Your Orchard? Two Programs Could Help Pay for It 10/7/2021 Almond growers can receive assistance from either of two popular state-funded programs and should have their application information ready now. The State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, also known as SWEEP, offers grants that can help growers install irrigation systems that reduce greenhouse gases and save water. Eligible system components include soil moisture monitoring, drip systems, switching to low-pressure irrigation systems, pump retrofits, variable frequency drives and installation of renewable energy to reduce on-farm water use and energy. The application period is open now. The Healthy Soils Program has the two-pronged goal of reducing greenhouse gases in California and improving soil health. The program supports whole orchard recycling (WOR) and chipping of old trees, whether they’re put back into the soil, applied as a mulch, used as renewable fuel at a biomass plant, used for animal bedding or spread on unpaved roads to control dust. The program also can cover the cost of planting cover crops and hedgerows or adding compost to orchards. The application period is expected to open very soon. Both programs are run through the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and are first-come, first-served. “My advice is to get in line now,” recommended Jesse Roseman, senior specialist for agriculture and regulatory affairs for the Almond Board of California. At The Almond Conference 2020, a CDFA official said that since 2015, 217 almond-related projects have received $20.5 million in funding through the two programs. “A lot of practices have many co-benefits” for soil and air quality and water quality, CDFA Senior Environmental Scientist Geetika Joshi said. Tom Devol, senior manager for field outreach for the Almond Board, said common uses of SWEEP funding include energy efficiency upgrades such as variable frequency drives on pumps and soil moisture technology such as sensors and weather stations. Roseman said some of the popular Healthy Soils Program projects in almond orchards include compost application, planting of cover crops and hedgerows, mulching, WOR, windbreaks, nutrient management, riparian forest buffers and filter strips. Joshi added that Healthy Soils Program payments cover about 50% of the cost of WOR. Visit the CDFA websites for more information and to apply for the two grants. Growers can also visit Almonds.com/Grants for a list of incentive opportunities available to almond producers.