California Climate Action Network – The California Healthy Soils Program: A Progress Report
In 2017, California launched its ambitious Healthy Soils Program (HSP) to incentivize farmers and ranchers to adopt agricultural practices that “enhance public health, improve water and air quality, increase pollinator and wildlife habitat, and provide significant potential to mitigate climate change.” In the last three years this program has provided $421 million to 640 projects and 67 demonstration projects in the state and seen a six-fold increase in farmer demand. The first program of its kind in the nation, it has also served as a model for several other states who have since adopted similar programs.
Near the end of 2020, the California Climate Action Network (CalCAN), a powerful proponent of the program, published a report on the program highlighting its successes and noting areas for improvement. The report points out that HSP effectively catalyzes the adoption of climate-friendly agriculture practices, but adds that several changes could improve its impact even further.
Access to the program is one the most significant hurdles. To date, most of the HSP’s funding has gone to conventional farms, and CalCAN recommends that more support is needed to reach “farmers of color, women farmers, and small and mid-scale farmers.” This can be done through changes to the application process and outreach efforts. Additionally, the report recommends that the Healthy Soils Program:
- Incorporate incentives for transitioning to organic production.
- Allow farmers with 1-year leases to participate.
- Clarify and streamline ecological monitoring requirements.
- Translate program materials into multiple languages.
- Revise program timelines and/or increase staff capacity to process grants before fall plantings.
- Create a process for stakeholders to flag if existing payment rates are insufficient to implement practices.
Ultimately, the findings of this report demonstrate how public incentive programs can have real and lasting impacts on the food system. We hope that California continues to support and grow the Healthy Soils Program and move the state towards a regenerative and inclusive food system.
To read more, the report can be found here.