Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) Program Overview
Purpose & Interagency Coordination
The Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) program is a component of the Strategic Growth Council’s Affordable Housing and Sustainability Program (AHSC). The program supports the protection and management of California's agricultural lands through planning and permanent protection of farm and ranch lands via agricultural easements. SALC will prevent increases in GHG emissions by limiting opportunities for expansive, vehicle dependent forms of development in favor of more focused, compact, and transit oriented development within discrete growth boundaries. In future years, SALC is proposed to support farm-scale conservation management practices that further promote reductions in GHG emissions and increases in soil carbon sequestration.
The SALC Program was identified by the Council as most appropriately administered by the California Department of Conservation (DOC) in conjunction with the Natural Resources Agency (Agency). The SGC approved the roles of DOC and the Agency at its July 10, 2014 meeting. In addition, the SALC Program has been developed in consultation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The DOC’s authority for agricultural land protection derives from various sections of statute:
- Public Resources Code Sections 10200-10277, the California Farmland Conservancy Program
- Public Resources Code Sections 10280-10283, Agricultural Protection Planning Grant Program
- Government Code Section 65570, the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program (FMMP)
- Government Code Sections 51190-51294.7, the California Land Conservation Act (Williamson Act or LCA)
- Revenue and Taxation Code Sections 421-430.5, pertaining to valuation of open space land subject to an enforceable restriction
- Public Resources Code Division 9, governing Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs)
SB 732 (Chapter 13, Statutes of 2008) established the Council and added California Government Code Sections 75127 and 75128, which direct the Council to manage and award financial assistance to support the planning and development of communities that achieve sustainability objectives. Government Code Section 75126 states that these funded activities must be consistent with the State’s Planning Priorities4, and Section 75125 states that the Council shall develop Guidelines for awarding financial assistance, including criteria for eligibility and additional consideration.
To fund projects that:
- protect at-risk agricultural lands from conversion to more GHG-intensive land uses, such as urban or rural residential development, in order to promote growth within existing jurisdictions, ensure open space remains available, and support a healthy agricultural economy and resulting food security.
Two project categories are eligible
- Strategy and Outcome Grants Support cities and counties with developing local and regional land use policies and strategies that protect critical agricultural land.
- Agricultural Conservation Easements Grants to permanently protect the croplands and rangelands of willing landowners that are at-risk of conversion.
SALC aims to achieve quantifiable improvements in the following areas:
- Reducing Air pollution
- Improving Conditions in Disadvantage Communities
- Implement a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) or other regional plan to reduce GHGs.
Disadvantaged Communities Benefits
Senate Bill 535 (Chapter 830, Statutes of 2012) directs State and local agencies to make significant investments that improve California’s most vulnerable communities. The statute requires that the GGRF investment plan allocate a minimum of twenty-five percent (25%) of available moneys to projects that provide benefits to disadvantaged communities and a minimum of ten percent (10%) to projects located within disadvantaged communities. The target for disadvantaged communities investment established by SB 862 is fifty percent (50%) for the overall Sustainable Communities and Affordable Housing Program allocated to the Strategic Growth Council (SGC).
The SALC Program addresses “common needs of disadvantaged communities (as identified by community advocates)”5 by complementing other aspects of the SGC’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program. The programs work together to reduce GHGs and support the health, economic, and environmental benefits that are achieved by reducing sprawl. Disadvantaged communities are identified using CalEnviroScreen version 2.06, with benefits assessed based on the criteria in ARB’s Funding Guidelines (disadvantaged community/ies).