We’re Listening: Sessions on Racial Equity and Ag Land Conservation

Starting tomorrow, our Division of Land Resource Protection and the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) are hosting online listening sessions to gather feedback and ideas from the public regarding equity components of the Sustainable Agriculture Lands Conservation Program (SALC).

These two sessions— the first of what may end up being several—are centered on equity. It’s just the beginning of how the SALC program will shape guidelines moving forward. It’s also the start of a longer- term effort to help these state partners engage with stakeholders to gather information and feedback.

DOC Outreach and Engagement Coordinator Sarah Rubin, who is facilitating the sessions, explains:

“In this moment, we are really looking to talk to a much broader constellation of individuals on how future iterations of the SALC program can include a wider variety of perspectives and continue to have an ever stronger equity focus.”

Benefits of SALC Grants

SALC provides grants that do two things:

  1. conserve agricultural land, which reduces the greenhouse gas emissions associated with urbanization, and
  2. help communities plan land-use strategies to protect agricultural land that might otherwise be developed.

SALC is part of the California Climate Investments initiative, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work in a variety of beneficial ways.

Conservations on Racial Equity

The workshops, April 20 and 28, will be conversational by design and will focus on gathering input for meaningful opportunities to address racial inequities regarding access to, tenure on, and ownership of agricultural land.

To set this into context, the SALC program operates on an annual cycle of four major steps:

  1. Guidelines are released around between February and April;
  2. Pre-proposals are due back between the end of April and the beginning of June;,
  3. Applications are due between August and September;
  4. Awards are announced in December.

Come the next calendar year, the cycle resets with new guidelines.

As of this writing, the SGC is set to approve Round 7 Guidelines for of the program on April 29. These listening sessions are to inform the guidelines beginning Round 8, which will be brought to SGC in 2022.

That’s why Shanna Atherton, associate environmental planner and acquisitions lead, is careful to emphasize the very “beginningness” of these listening sessions. They are part of an effort to obtain stakeholder feedback earlier in the process.

Action and the Long Road Forward

The listening sessions also evolved from a recent adoption of a Racial Equity Resolution by SGC. Racial Equity is central to SGC’s mission and SALC seeks to align with and advance the resolution and the Council’s Racial Equity Action Plan.

In Atherton’s words, “these sessions are a starting point in our work to make the program more equitable. There is so much more to do after these initial sessions. We have a very long way to go.”

And a lot of work to do.

Starting outreach earlier means Round 7 grants overlap with the foundation of Round 8. The team is eager to solicit participation for this current year while also planning to pivot and adapt to feedback that may influence changes for the 2022 awards.

In the meantime, tune into one of the listening sessions, and invite others who may be interested. Then check back to stay current with updates and the next round of outreach.

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