By Brian German
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with American Farmland Trust (AFT) to help enhance San Joaquin Valley water efficiency. The San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Conservation Collaboration is being made possible through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program from NRCS, in coordination with state and local partners.
“We’re going to over the next five years, have some pretty sizable achievements,” said AFT California Regional Director Kara Heckert. “To protect our agricultural land in the valley to ensure resilience to climate change through healthy soils, high-quality surface and groundwater supplies, and environmentally sound habitats for fish and wildlife.”
NRCS has made $10 million available for the project, which is being matched with $14.2 million from multiple project partners. Some of the key elements of the initiative include data analysis, developing conservation plans, and working to implement on-farm conservation practices. “We are going to be protecting farmland through conservation easements as part of this as well,” Heckert noted.
The plan includes assisting in the development of conservation plans to increase groundwater recharge potential and water conservation on at least 100,000 acres, working with 150 to 200 producers. The five-year project will also assist with the implementation of best practices to increase water infiltration and water conservation on at least 23,565 acres of land with at least 80 producers. Heckert noted that the fundamental goal is to improve San Joaquin Valley water efficiency through a variety of hands-on approaches working with producers.
“That can be things like soil, it can be things like cover cropping, it can be things like flooding farm fields. All of those practices are things that are much more cost-effective in the long term, which is really important for the farmers’ bottom line if we’re going to expect the scale-up of adoption of these practices,” said Heckert. “We need to make them economically viable for the farmers.”