Northern San Joaquin Valley Farmers Eligible for $2.6 Million to Improve Water Quality and Create Habitat

July 30, 2009

Reps. Cardoza, Costa championed new Farm Bill partnership programs, enabling coalition of growers and conservationists to secure funds

WASHINGTON, July 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Farmers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley will be eligible for more than $2.6 million in funds this year under two new farm bill conservation partnership programs this year to tackle some of the region’s most pressing environmental problems. The awards will be renewable for several years, likely bringing the multi-year total up to $12.3 million for the partnerships.

The funds will be available to Northern San Joaquin Valley growers and dairies for water quality improvement, reducing off-farm movement of pesticides and sediment, and improving fish and wildlife habitat, using practices approved by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The new partnership programs — the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) and Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) — will make funds available to growers and dairies working cooperatively in the Northern San Joaquin Valley to improve water quality and habitat on lands that grow specialty crops (fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture). Eligible practices will include installation of sediment basins and irrigation tailwater recirculation systems, planting native shrub hedgerows for integrated pest management, and creating features such as riparian buffers for erosion control.

The AWEP and CCPI partnership programs were launched this year. They were championed in the 2008 Farm Bill by U.S. Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced/Modesto/Stockton), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture, and U.S. Rep. Jim Costa (D-Bakersfield/Fresno), a member of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation.

“Congress is recognizing an important need of specialty crops farmers in Northern San Joaquin Valley,” says Parry Klassen, Executive Director of Coalition for Urban/Rural Environmental Stewardship (CURES and www.curesworks.org), the applicant for the AWEP program. “Making this funding available during these tough economic times will help ensure that protections for our valuable water resources can be put in place quickly.”

“Congressmen Cardoza and Costa deserve credit for championing the programs that will benefit both the environment and the economy,” said Stacy Small, Conservation Scientist for Environmental Defense Fund and a co-author on the partnership proposals. “These conservation programs will put millions of dollars directly into the hands of Northern San Joaquin Valley growers to help solve environmental problems and offset the cost of meeting regulatory requirements.”

“I’m looking forward to encouraging regional growers to apply for the funds,” says Cliff Ohmart, Sustainable Winegrowing Director with the Lodi Winegrape Commission, who is coordinating the CCPI partnership in San Joaquin County. “I’m particularly excited that this will provide new financial resources for activities like upland habitat restoration that we had trouble getting funded before, as well as soil erosion control.”

“Producers in our region are eager to improve upon their current production practices, as they realize the critical role they play in contributing to the regions effort to improve water quality,” says Sherman Boone, chairman of the East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District (ESRCD), a CCPI and AWEP partner that will be providing technical support and assistance to producers applying for these funds. “However, improvements to production practices often require costly infrastructure to be installed, which can be a difficult hurdle for producers who have been hit hard by the poor economy. We are excited to hear these funds have been made available to assist our local farmers and dairymen implement conservation practices here in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.”

“Stanislaus County Farm Bureau co-founded the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition and has been actively involved with trying to improve water quality when it comes to agricultural inputs,” said Wayne Zipser, Executive Manager of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau. “This available funding through the USDA will go a long way in helping farmers make the essential improvements in their management practices and infrastructure to help achieve water quality standards for all of our watersheds.”

The grants will come at a critical time for farmers and the environment along the San Joaquin River and its tributaries. In addition to a faltering economy and several years of drought placing additional burdens on growers, the San Joaquin and Sacramento River Systems have been jointly declared to be “America’s Most Endangered River” by the non-profit group American Rivers.

Given this new infusion of federal dollars, farmers will be able to quickly receive assistance to cut water pollution levels through on-farm irrigation water management practices and improve habitat out of funds set aside especially for this purpose from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

“These partnerships are a solid mix of agricultural groups, environmental organizations, and government agencies working together to advance goals we all share: supporting California agriculture, while also achieving state objectives with respect to cleaner water and healthier landscapes,” said Eric Holst, managing director of the Center for Conservation Incentives at Environmental Defense Fund. “We believe these new initiatives hold tremendous promise and will jump start many similar projects — multi-stakeholder efforts that ensure that growers have the assistance they need to successfully address local, state, and regional conservation priorities — in California and across the country.”

To receive funding for the environmentally beneficial practices identified for these programs, growers should apply under the partnership in their area by contacting their local NRCS office: Stanislaus County, (209) 491-9320; San Joaquin County, (209) 472-7127. For a listing of offices statewide see http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=CA.

Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 700,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit www.edf.org.


Sean Crowley, Environmental Defense Fund, 292-572-3331, scrowley@edf.org

Parry Klassen, Coalition for Urban/Rural Environmental Stewardship (CURES), 559-288-8125, pklassen@unwiredbb.com

Cliff Ohmart, Lodi Winegrape Commission, 209-608-1871, cliff@lodiwine.com

Melanie Fisher, East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District, 209-491-9320 x122, Melanie.Fisher@ca.nacdnet.net

SOURCE Environmental Defense Fund

Source: newswire

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