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Sustainable Land Initiative: Accelerating Climate Smart Agriculture

The Sustainable Land Initiative (SLI) is a program for dramatically accelerating California’s transition to climate-smart agriculture (CSA) and deployment of nature-based climate solutions. 

 Sustainable Land Intake Form

SLI is a partnership between Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) and university campuses led by Upper Salinas-Las Tablas RCD (northern SLO County) and Cal Poly, and currently expanding to Coastal San Luis, Cachuma (SB), and Ventura RCDs.

RCDs are the main source of CSA technical assistance for farmers. SLI dramatically increases RCD throughput and efficiency by digitalizing the project development process. This lets RCDs manage multiple projects simultaneously, find funding more quickly, spend less time on administrative tasks, and focus on planning and implementing priority nature-based solutions. The UC-funded pilot has demonstrated project timelines can be reduced from 2-3 years to 3-6 weeks, with a corresponding decrease in RCD administrative burden from 2000 hours to 100 hours (see Fig 1 and Fig 2, on reverse). With SLI, funding can begin (or even be secured!) before the initial engagement of participants. 

SLI aggregates many projects so that smaller and underserved land managers can compete for grants and other resources at the same level as larger and higher-capacity operations, giving region-level priority to local projects and diversifying & increasing participation in technical service programs; eliminating the “first-come, first serve” approach.  Aggregation of projects also allows RCD staff to leverage economies of scale during grant development and to manage larger grants effectively, enabling the pursuit of funding at 10x-100x previous levels.

SLI removes the usual barriers to CSA adoption by providing (free or at extremely low cost):

  • equitable access to resources (funding, equipment, materials, training), 
  • quantification of CSA benefits (economic, water usage, soil health), and
  • professional development and workforce development (peer-to-peer, demonstrations).

The SLI data platform provides a transparent record for project features (including type, acreage, GHG/water impact, location), generating a pipeline of verifiable and fundable CSA projects to meet local, state, federal, and tribal GHG-reduction and carbon sequestration targets and CEQA mitigation needs, and passive revenues streams for farmers.

For more information, there is a short, self-contained slide deck here.

Proposal and request. We seek to expand SLI to other RCDs, while increasing implementation of nature-based climate solutions. Because RCDs in California receive no baseline funding, the expansion of SLI requires funding to provide capacity for existing SLI members to conduct outreach and training, and to provide capacity for non-members to receive SLI training. Capacity is also needed for outreach to university campuses and subsequent partnership-building. While we are presently focused on California, we expect SLI to find broad bipartisan support and propagate nationwide.