Grant Program Will Pay California Farmers To Repurpose Fallow Land

A new state grant program will help California farmers convert idle land to new purposes in an effort to mitigate the environmental and economic effects of drought on the state's Central Valley.

November 15, 2021, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

California Central Valley

Aaron Kohr / Shutterstock

As drought continues to strain California's water supply, Dustin Gardiner reports that "Farmers are being forced to fallow — a term for plowing land and leaving it unplanted — their fields and orchards in unprecedented numbers" due to restrictions imposed by the state's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Leaving land fallow, however, can lead to more severe dust storms that would worsen the Central Valley's already dismal air quality. To compensate farmers for their lost revenue and prevent a future dust bowl, the state has allocated $50 million to a program that supports farmers in finding new uses for fallowed land. According to the article, "local organizations such as irrigation districts or municipalities will receive block grants, funding that must then be doled out to help farmers convert their land to uses that aim to improve air quality, conserve water or provide other community benefits." 

The Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program will encourage farmers to repurpose their land in a variety of ways, such as restoring wildlife habitat, building recharge basins or renewable energy facilities, or converting land into parks. 

In October, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide drought emergency, urging water agencies to consider implementing mandatory conservation measures as the state faces one of the worst droughts in its history. 

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