Microsoft Word - KS Edited Final Version, Risher, 4-28-09
The USDA has announced an award of $2 million that will provide funding for qualified farmers and ranchers in Stanislaus and Merced counties in 2009; annual funds are anticipated to total $10 million over the next five years.
The applicant for the funding to this nationally competitive program was the Coalition for Urban Rural Environmental Stewardship which worked in conjunction with the Partnership for Agriculture and the Environment, a coalition of local interests ranging from Stanislaus and Merced County Farm Bureaus, Almond Board of California, and Western United Dairymen to the Environmental Defense Fund (full partner list below).
The funding, available almost immediately, comes under the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program created in the 2008 Farm Bill and will be directed to farms and dairies with operations bordering waterways in the two county region.
Key in securing the AWEP program in the 2008 Farm Bill were 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.
"Securing this USDA funding shows the power that comes when agricultural and environmental interests combine their energies to help growers solve water quality problems," says Parry Klassen, Executive Director of CURES. "Representatives Cardoza and Costa should be commended for their efforts in making AWEP a reality. The benefits from projects supported by AWEP will last for decades."
The AWEP funding will be directed to farms and dairies that operate along waterways shown to be impaired by farm inputs through water monitoring performed by the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition and Westside San Joaquin River Watershed Coalition, which also are members of the Partnership for Agriculture and the Environment. These two organizations represent landowners under the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program mandated by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. Growers must make changes to irrigation and farming practices to meet requirements of the ILRP and can use AWEP funding for irrigation drainage sediment basins and irrigation tailwater recirculation systems, among other practices.
Applications for AWEP funding will be administered by county offices of the Natural Resources Conservation Service with CURES providing program outreach and assistance with identifying and screening funding applicants.