Supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19 brought food security — and the resilience of food networks — to the forefront of discussion among policy makers. In particular, the pandemic has highlighted essential role of local farmers in ensuring a reliable and healthy food supply for our state and country.
That’s why the American Farmland Trust (AFT) recently hosted a webinar in its series, “Farming in a Pandemic: Policy Responses in California.” And among the speakers was Keali’i Bright, director of the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Division of Land Resource Protection (DLRP).
But first, what does Division of Land Resource Protection do?
DLRP works with nonprofit organizations, local governments, and researchers to protect California’s agricultural lands by providing information and financial support to safeguard food security, support rural economies, minimize sprawl and “leapfrog” development.
DOC is an essential AFT partner in California’s farmland protection efforts. In particular, DLRP’s farmland data supports AFT’s work to promote farmland conservation planning and project prioritization while land protection grants protect farmland for the future.
Committed to agricultural support
In the webinar, Bright weighed in on how the state is helping the agricultural sector in this emergency.
First and foremost, DLRP committed to ensure its programs continue operating uninterrupted.
Nonprofit land trusts rely on funding from DOC and other providers. DLRP’s programs provide critical cash flow that keep their doors open and keep the farmland conservation network intact.
Responding to stakeholder needs
The sudden change in working conditions gave DLRP the impetus to survey its stakeholders and gauge their needs. Immediately, staff realized that increased flexibility in grants, streamlined processes, and faster invoice payments were a priority.
The division transitioned a diverse set of programs to remote operations immediately.
Staff were able to continue mapping farmland, conduct public workshops, release grant solicitations, and work to identify the services that its nonprofit conservation partners need as a result of the crisis.
New reality, same focus
This shift required embracing technology and reframing how DLRP pursues its vision and work: from in person to online, from at work to at home.
“We’re still in business, working with our partners to help the agricultural sector find its footing in a new reality,” Bright said, adding that while he believes the workplace has changed for good, the core mission remains.
“Through the pandemic and beyond, we remain committed to supporting our conservation partners, working with fellow state agencies, and serving Californians.”