The Department of Conservation’s California Farmland Conservancy Program provides grants to local governments and qualified nonprofit organizations for the following purposes:
Agricultural Conservation Easement Acquisition Projects
Agricultural conservation easement projects are considered eligible for grant funding if they meet the following criteria (Public Resources Code Section 10251):
The parcel proposed for conservation is expected to continue to be used for, and is large enough to sustain, commercial agricultural production. The land is also in an area that possesses the necessary market, infrastructure, and agricultural support services, and the surrounding parcel sizes and land uses will support long-term commercial agricultural production.
The applicable city or county has a general plan which demonstrates a long-term commitment to agricultural land conservation. This commitment shall be reflected in the goals, objectives, policies, and implementation measures of the plan, as they relate to the area of the county or city where the easement acquisition is proposed.
Without conservation, the land proposed for protection is likely to be converted to non-agricultural use in the foreseeable future.
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Temporary Fee Title Acquisition Projects
In addition to agricultural conservation easements, grant funds may be used in certain cases to obtain temporary fee title (full purchase of title) to agricultural lands. These projects are strictly voluntary sales by willing landowners. In such cases, the following conditions must be met:
A grant recipient must agree, upon acquisition of the property, to treat the property as encumbered with an agricultural conservation easement subject to Public Resources Code Section 10262 (Public Resources Code Section 10239(a)).
The grant recipient must sell the fee title subject to an agricultural conservation easement to a private landowner within three years of the acquisition of the fee title (Public Resources Code Section 10239(b)).
The grant recipient must reimburse the CFCP Fund by an amount equal to the fair market value of the land less the value of the easement and associated transaction costs within 30 days after the sale of the restricted fee title (Public Resources Code Section 10239(c)).
The term "temporary fee title" refers to the fact that the grant recipient (governmental or non-profit organization) would only "temporarily" hold title to the land. Because an objective of the CFCP program is to keep land in private sector production, the land must be returned to private ownership.
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Policy and Technical Assistance Projects
The CFCP statute authorizes grants for policy and planning projects related to agricultural land conservation and the utilization of agricultural conservation. Because CFCP is reliant on bond funding, policy/planning projects are limited to authorized uses of those funds. This typically limits planning grants to activities which directly relate to agricultural easement acquisitions. Such activities may include appraisals, surveys, title review, and outreach directly related to bringing agricultural conservation easements to the acquisition stage.
Up to ten percent of total available grant funds may be applied toward policy/planning and land improvement grants combined (Public Resources Code Section 10230(b)).