(Sacramento, CA — Sept. 28, 2022) As California suffers through a third year of severe drought, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation last night that dedicates $40 million to the Department of Conservation’s Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program.
Established last year with an initial $50 million, the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program helps farmers and agricultural communities adjust to reductions in groundwater use by creating new benefits for people and wildlife on previously irrigated lands. The program requires prioritizing projects that benefit disadvantaged communities and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers for funding.
The Department of Conservation approved the first round of grants for the program in May to five agricultural counties after receiving applications for two times the funding available. The Department also selected Self-Help Enterprises and Environmental Defense Fund as the new “Statewide Support Entity” and assist the program’s block grantees with planning, project implementation, and community engagement services.
“California’s drought is showing no signs of letting up, and rural communities need all the support the state can provide to help adapt to this new reality of ongoing water scarcity. The Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program provides farmers with an array of options for managing their land that will help balance groundwater supply and demand, so there is enough water to sustain communities long into the future.
The increased funding for land repurposing, while helpful, unfortunately, does not fully address both the magnitude and urgency of the challenge facing farmers, the agricultural sector, and rural communities. Land repurposing is one of many strategies needed to help communities make the difficult transition to using less water and the demand for this program will only increase as the drought persists. We urge the state to provide more funding not only to this program but to other complementary programs, such as job retraining, to support rural communities and particularly farm workers in transitioning to more diversified economies.”
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