CDFA Pilots Block Grant Program for Healthy Soils
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is pleased to announce funding availability for the Healthy Soils - Block Grant Pilot Program. The funds will be awarded through a competitive grant application process. The Healthy Soils - Block Grant Pilot Program is a part of the Healthy Soils Program (HSP), which stems from the California Healthy Soils Initiative, a collaboration of state agencies and departments that promotes the development of healthy soils on California’s farmlands and ranchlands.
What is the purpose of the Healthy Soils – Block Grant Pilot Program?
The objectives of the HSP are to increase statewide implementation of conservation management practices that improve soil health, sequester carbon and reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs) by (1) providing financial incentives to California growers and ranchers to implement agricultural management practices that sequester carbon, reduce atmospheric GHGs and improve soil health, (2) funding on-farm demonstration projects that conduct research and/or showcase conservation management practices that mitigate GHG emissions and improve soil health, and (3) creating a platform promoting widespread adoption of conservation management practices throughout the state.
The Healthy Soils - Block Grant Pilot Program addresses objective 1, while objectives 2 and 3 are addressed in the Healthy Soils - Demonstration Program. The Block Grant Pilot Program is designed to facilitate financial assistance to California agricultural operations through regional block grant administrators. The Block Grant Pilot Program grant recipients will select projects and disperse funds to California farmers and ranchers.
What is the funding and duration of HSP – Block Grant Pilot Program
CDFA was appropriated $70 million for the Heathy Soils Program from the California State Budget. CDFA will make available approximately $29 million for the Block Grant Pilot Program. Block grants ranging from $2 million to $5 million will be awarded for grant terms up to four years. Within those awards:
- 15% of the awarded funds may be used for all direct and indirect costs of administering the block grant program.
- In addition to 15% administrative cost, the Block Grant Recipient (BGR) or the technical assistance partners are eligible for up to 5% of awarded funds for technical assistance activities as specified in AB 2377 (Irwin, 2018).
- Block Grant Recipients may request up to $30,000 to purchase equipment as 50% cost-share to assist on-farm project implementation.
- The remainder of the grant funds must be used to implement the eligible practices on Grant Beneficiaries’ farms or ranches or reimburse Grant Beneficiaries to implement the eligible practices. The maximum award for an on-farm project is $200,000 for the grant term of 3 project-years. Grant Beneficiaries are eligible for one grant award per grant cycle.
CDFA reserves the right to offer an award different than the amount requested. CDFA will consider equitable regional distribution of funds along with evaluation criteria while selecting awards. All grant reimbursement payments will be made to the BGRs. Block Grant Recipients will be responsible for further disbursement of funds to partners and Grant Beneficiaries.
What entities are eligible to apply?
The following entities are eligible to apply for the Block Grant Program:
- Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs)
- University of California (UC), California Community Colleges, or California State Universities (CSU)
- Federally- and California- Recognized Native American Indian Tribes
- Local or regional government agencies such as air pollution control districts.
- State agricultural marketing programs, and federal marketing programs that represent California commodities (California Commodities)
- Nonprofit organizations including, but not limited to Groundwater Sustainability Agencies, Irrigation districts, and Land Trusts.
- Applicant organizations are required to provide technical assistance to Grant Beneficiaries as required by AB 2377. Applicant organizations not eligible under AB 2377 to provide TA must partner with other eligible entities such as RCDs, University of California Cooperative Extension Offices, and nonprofit organizations.
CDFA encourages applications from organizations who serve socially disadvantaged California food producers and farmworkers as defined by the 2017 Farmer Equity Act, including but not limited to African Americans, Native Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. The applicant entities must have a demonstrated track record and expertise in conservation management practices, grant administration and outreach. Partnerships between organizations are strongly encouraged to leverage expertise across various organizations and connections to the agricultural community. Partner organizations must be California-based. All entities receiving grant funds must be located in California with a physical California business address.
Who are eligible Grant Beneficiaries?
The program is designed to encourage farmers and ranchers to implement conservation management practices that sequester carbon, reduce atmospheric GHGs, improve soil health, and provide co-benefits while reducing the economic burden of trying new practices. CDFA’s theory of change is that Grant Beneficiaries will experience the benefits through implementation of these practices and then incorporate them into their normal agriculture operations after the grant term has ended.
The following entities or individuals are eligible as Grant Beneficiaries:
- California farmers, ranchers, business entities, and Federally- and California- Recognized Native American Indian Tribes.
- Nonprofit organizations as agriculture operations.
- Individuals or business entities receiving grant award funds must be located in California with a physical California business address, and projects must be located on agricultural operations in California.
- Grant Beneficiaries must be at least 18 years old.
What projects are eligible for funding?
Projects must be located on agricultural operations in California. For the purposes of this program, an agricultural operation is defined as row, vineyard, field and tree crops, commercial nurseries, nursery stock production, and greenhouse operations producing food crops or flowers as defined in Food and Agricultural Code section 77911. The project boundaries must be within the state of California. Awards are limited to one per agricultural operation using a unique tax identification number per grant cycle. University and research farms are not eligible for funding. These entities may apply for the Healthy Soils Demonstration Program. Cannabis cultivation operations are not eligible as Grant Beneficiaries. Grant funds cannot be used for projects that use potted plants and plant growth media other than soil.
What is the timeline for HSP Block Grants?
Grant applications are due June 19, 2023. Administrative and technical review of the submitted applications will take place June through July, with award announcements anticipated in July 2023. Awardees must attend a training workshop in September, and the grant agreement execution stage is estimated to take several months.
The full Request for Applications can be found here.
For more information on this program or how to apply with Morrison’s assistance, please contact the Morrison Grants Team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 530-893-4764.