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NR 2002-10
February 14, 2002

Contact: Carol Dahmen
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
Ed Wilson
(916) 323-1886

CALIFORNIA FARMLAND CONSERVANCY PROGRAM
ISSUES REQUEST FOR GRANT APPLICATIONS

SACRAMENTO -- Bolstered by $5 million in bond funding from Proposition 12, the California Farmland Conservancy Program today released its annual request for grant applications to protect agricultural land from encroaching development.

The California Farmland Conservancy Program -- part of the Department of Conservation's Division of Land Resource Protection -- makes money available to purchase permanent agricultural conservation easements from willing landowners. An agricultural conservation easement is a voluntary, legally recorded deed restriction that prohibits practices that would interfere with the agricultural use of the land. The easement remains in effect even when the land is sold.

"California's population is expected to increase from 34.7 million to 50 million in the next 25 years. Through proper planning, we can minimize the impact on the state's $29 billion agricultural industry," DOC Director Darryl Young said. "The Department of Conservation strives to balance the needs of a growing population and the needs of agriculture, and the easements created by the California Farmland Conservancy Program are a key element in doing that."

The benefits of an agricultural conservation easement to landowners include a one-time payment for retiring future development potential, continued ownership of the farm or ranch and control of agricultural operations, a potential reduction in property tax assessments, and a potential future reduction in estate taxes. A landowner can use the money from the sale of an agricultural conservation easement for any purpose; for example, to retire existing debt, to buy more land or fund a retirement plan.

The benefits to local government and the general public include permanent protection of agricultural land and the continued eligibility of the land for property tax subvention payments in counties participating in the Williamson Act.

Cities, counties and qualified non-profit organizations, such as a land trust or resource conservation district, can apply for CFCP grants. While individuals cannot apply directly, DOC's Division of Land Resource Protection can help point landowners to the appropriate local entity (call 916-324-0850). Information is also available on the Web at www.conservation.ca.gov.

DOC uses three general criteria in determining eligibility for CFCP grants. First, the parcel of land must face conversion to non-agricultural use in the foreseeable future without the benefit of an easement. Second, the grant proposal must be consistent with the local government's general plan and local government must approve the proposal. Third, the parcel must be large enough to sustain commercial agricultural production and continue to be used for that purpose.

The steps involved in applying for a grant include employing an appraiser to calculate the difference between the fair market value and agricultural value of the land; submitting documentation of local government's commitment to agricultural land preservation; and providing matching funds (at least 5 percent of the grant or 10 percent of the easement value).

Since 1996, the California Farmland Conservancy Program has given out more than $16 million in grants to purchase permanent agricultural conservation easements on 13,500 acres of the state's most productive agricultural land. Another $10 million in grant proposals is currently under negotiation. Proposition 40, on the March 5 ballot, could add up to $75 million in funding to preserve farmland and grazing land.

In addition to helping safeguard agricultural and open-space land, the Department of Conservation administers the state's beverage container recycling program; regulates oil, gas and geothermal wells in the state; studies and maps earthquakes, landslides and mineral resources; and ensures reclamation of land used for mining.

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