Texas is the only other state to have spent more on conservation investment through USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for the fiscal year 2018. California spent more than $100 million through EQIP on various conservation projects to benefit things such as water quality and conservation, air quality and forest conservation.
“[The funding] went out to help our diverse farmers and ranchers in the state, whether it was to install efficient irrigation systems, work with air quality, working with forestry,” said Carlos Suarez, California State Conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “We utilize that money across the board to assist farmers and ranchers install best management practices.”
Air quality has been a major priority for conservation investment, comprising a significant percentage of overall funding. California is a leader in terms of air quality initiatives. “This year of the $100 million that we put in EQIP, we put in $23.5 million in air quality financial assistance,” said Suarez.
Investment in water concerns continues to be a sizable component of EQIP expenditures, particularly as farmers address water supply issues and the impending Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. “That has been one of our main resource priorities in the state, water quality and water conservation, and we have put in significant investment on that,” Suarez noted.
Increases in the frequency and severity of California wildfires in recent years prompted more focus and investment on forestry issues. “This year we had a significant investment in forest health on private lands in California of $14.5 million,” said Suarez. “We estimate that that is going to continue as long as we continue receiving the funding that we’re receiving, forestry is going to be one of our paramount resource concerns that we will be addressing.”
NRCS recently had one of their biannual meetings with state and local agencies, trade organizations and agriculture groups to discuss the progress of various conservation projects as well as any challenges facing the continued development of conservation projects. “I was very pleased at sharing with them the successes that we accomplished in fiscal year 2018,” noted Suarez.
Listen to Suarez’s interview below.