The NRCS and Marin RCD do not engage in policy development or advocacy. Other members of the Marin Carbon Project including UCEE, MALT and CCI, work to advance programs and policies at the local, regional, state and federal levels that support farmers and ranchers. Referencing MCP scientific research and other leading scientific sources, partners have successfully developed or played a role in creating an interlocking suite of policies, planning practices and measurement tools which build on existing infrastructure to advance conservation agriculture and soil health.
MARIN COUNTY & BAY AREA POLICY
In June 2022, Marin County voters approved the renewal of Measure A, a 0.25% sales tax that supports parks, open space, and sustainable agriculture across Marin. This will continue to support the work of key partnering organizations in projects that enhance carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on agricultural working lands.
In December 2020, the Marin Board of Supervisors adopted the Climate Action Plan 2030, which updates and builds on the successes of the 2015 Climate Action Plan. Marin was one of the first counties in the state to incorporate agriculture into a climate action plan, largely as a result of MCP’s work with the County of Marin. Along with accounting for emissions associated with agricultural operations, the Climate Action Plan 2030 concluded that significant climate benefits would be associated with soil carbon sequestration, along with additional environmental and agricultural benefits:
“Beyond the GHG emission reduction benefits measured for the purposes of the CAP, full implementation of these measures would serve to increase habitat, improve soil health and water retention, and reduce imported feed and other operating costs for producers.”
“This potential, if fully achieved, could not only outweigh emissions from agricultural operations, but also support Marin County in achieving its carbon drawdown goals.”
In 2016 the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in conjunction with the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) approved the Rangeland Compost Protocol (previously a protocol approved by the American Carbon Registry) for the Regional GHG Rx, making rangeland carbon an approved practice for the local GHG mitigation markets.
Half a decade after MCP began working to bring agriculture into the climate conversation, including targeted education efforts by MCP, in 2015 then California Governor Brown made natural and working lands the fifth pillar of the State’s climate strategy. As the case for agriculture as a climate solution strengthens, it continues to be an important contributor to the climate conversation and to California’s climate plans. Read more here.
AB 1757 (2022) will catalyze natural carbon sequestration in California by:
- Requiring the California Natural Resources Agency and Air Resources Board to establish ambitious targets for sequestration on natural and working lands for 2030, 2038, and 2045;
- Ensuring that natural sequestration projects have rigorous measurement and verification; and
- Establishing an expert committee — including researchers, farmers, and tribal and environmental justice representatives — to advise state agencies on modeling and implementation.
Find out more about relevant legislative history here.
STATE PROGRAM SUPPORT FOR CLIMATE-SMART LAND MANAGEMENT
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation (OEFI) manages fourteen (14) programs supporting agricultural production and incentivizing practices resulting in a net benefit for the environment through innovation, efficient management and science.
CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program stems from the California Healthy Soils Initiative, a collaboration of state agencies and departments to promote the development of healthy soils on California’s farmlands and ranchlands. In 2016, two state bills, Senate Bill 1350 introduced by Senator Lois Wolk, and Senate Bill 859, established the Healthy Soils Program. The Program was also championed by State Assemblymember Marc Levine, representing Marin County and the 10th District. The HSP has two components: the HSP Incentives Program and the HSP Demonstration Projects.
- The HSP Incentives Program provides financial assistance for implementation of conservation management that improve soil health, sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
- The HSP Demonstration Projects showcase California farmers and rancher’s implementation of HSP practices.
The Conservation Agriculture Planning Grants Program (CAPGP) is a new program in the Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation. This program will fund the development of plans that will help farmers and ranchers identify actions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, further environmental stewardship on farms and ranches and ensure agricultural food security into the future.
CDFA’s Alternative Manure Management Program provides annual funding for the implementation of non-digester manure management practices on California dairies and animal agricultural operations.
The State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), also administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to implement irrigation systems that reduce greenhouse gases and save water.
The California Department of Conservation (DOC) manages the state’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program which provides critical funding for land use planning and agricultural land conservation funded through California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.
The California State Coastal Conservancy’s Climate Ready Program has supported MCP partner initiatives and carbon farming for many years. Most recently, the Marin RCD was awarded a $1 million grant to plan and implement carbon farming projects that improve soil productivity, water sustainability, biological diversity, greenhouse gas sequestration for agriculture and watershed resiliency on ranches in western Marin County.
For relevant federal policy, read more here.
RELATED FEDERAL AGENCIES AND THEIR PROGRAMS
USDA PARTNERSHIPS FOR CLIMATE-SMART COMMODITIES
In 2022, the USDA announced the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity, a new program to support farmers and ranchers, including small and underserved producers, in expanding markets for agricultural commodities produced using practices that reduce greenhouse gas emission or sequester carbon.
Many MCP partner organizations were recently awarded a multi-million dollar grant through this funding opportunity as major partners in the Sonoma-Marin Agriculture and County Climate Coalition project. It was one of 70 projects competitively selected from a national pool of projects requesting a total of $20 billion, with only $2.8 billion in projects awarded. The funds will support carbon farming and other projects on local ranches and farms that will benefit the environment and promote sustainable agriculture.
This project will build on successful carbon farming and local/regional food systems partnerships across two counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a key MCP partner. The MCP supported carbon farm planning framework emerged from the nexus between the climate crisis and traditional NRCS farm conservation planning, as a whole farm approach to optimizing carbon capture on working landscapes. NRCS conservation practices are eligible for federal Farm Bill funding through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices that improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related natural resources on agricultural land and nonindustrial private forestland.
Since 2013, MCP partners have been working with NRCS and Colorado State University to create a suite of online tools to model the climate benefits of 36 conservation practices ( COMET-Planner). In 2013, the Marin RCD received a USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) that funded the application of compost on the first three demonstration ranches. Results from this applied research helped advance the adoption of a new national USDA NRCS funded conservation practice, Soil Carbon Amendment (CPS 336)
If you are an agricultural producer or landowner seeking assistance in development of a Carbon Farm Plan (CFP), contact your local RCD or NRCS office.