LAFCO to apply for ag conservation planning grant

San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commis­sion will be partnering with the Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego on an agri­cultural conservation planning grant.

LAFCO’s board voted 8-0 August 3 to authorize LAFCO to be the lead applicant for the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation grant and to submit a $250,000 grant ap­plication. LAFCO and the RCD of Greater San Diego will be joined in the partnership by the San Diego Association of Gov­ernments and the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

The Sustainable Agricul­tural Lands Conservation pro­gram was created in 2014 as a component of the California Strategic Growth Council and is administered by the state’s Department of Conservation. The SALC program is primar­ily funded through “cap and trade” funds and provides ag­ricultural conservation acqui­sition and planning grants for programs intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The principal goals of the SALC are to protect at-risk agricul­tural lands from development by promoting growth within existing jurisdictions, to en­sure that open space remains available, to support a healthy agricultural economy, and to avoid increases in greenhouse gas emissions associated with the conversion of agricultural land to more intensive non-ag­ricultural uses.

The current round of SALC program grants focuses on funding for agricultural con­servation acquisitions and agri­cultural conservation planning projects. The agricultural con­servation planning grants are intended to develop and imple­ment plans for the protection of agricultural lands at risk of conversion to more intensive non-agricultural uses. The SALC grant program guide­lines were approved in Febru­ary 2020.

The program guidelines specify eligible applicants for the agricultural conservation planning grants. Counties, cit­ies, LAFCOs, councils of gov­ernment, municipal planning organizations, regional trans­portation planning agencies, groundwater management agencies, and special districts with land use or transportation planning authority are eligible.

“LAFCOs are eligible for this type of grant and RCDs are not,” said LAFCO chief policy analyst Robert Barry.

A resource conservation dis­trict has no regulatory author­ity. The Soil Conservation Act was created as a response to the Dust Bowl and included the cre­ation of local soil conservation districts with locally-elected boards which worked in con­junction with the Soil Conser­vation Service branch of the United States Department of Agriculture. In the 1970s Cali­fornia’s soil conservation dis­tricts became resource conser­vation districts, although some states retain the soil conserva­tion district designation, and San Diego County currently has three RCDs. Initially the districts were formed to con­trol water runoff and prevent soil erosion and focused on ag­ricultural use of land, although they are now also involved in watershed management, recre­ational area management, ur­ban and agricultural irrigation and water use, water quality, forest land productivity, and public education for children and adults.

The RCD of Greater San Di­ego initially intended to be the lead applicant for the SALC grant, but an update to the fi­nal grant program guidelines eliminated RCDs as eligible ap­plicants. The RCD of Greater San Diego had asked LAFCO to participate in March, and af­ter it was determined that the RCD could not be the lead ap­plicant the other partners re­quested that LAFCO take the role as the lead applicant. On June 1 LAFCO’s board voted 8-0 to direct staff to proceed with the application, although LAF­CO did not realize that a formal resolution was required as part of the application process. The resolution approved August 3 specifies that the RCD will manage the project and be re­sponsible for all related match­ing and program costs.

The application deadline for the SALC grant is Aug 28. The grants are expected to be awarded in December.

LAFCO to apply for ag conservation planning grant

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