MARIN AGRICULTURAL LAND TRUST LAUNCHES NEW DROUGHT RESILIENCE AND WATER SECURITY INITIATIVE
Apr. 16, 2021
Source: Marin Agricultural Land Trust news release
Point Reyes Station, CA - The Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), a pioneering farmland trust in California's Marin County, announced today that it is launching a Drought Resilience and Water Security (DRAWS) initiative to help address critical water shortages affecting Marin County farmers and ranchers.
MALT is coordinating with several local organizations on drought relief efforts, working most closely with the following partners:
• Marin Resource Conservation District (MRCD)
• Marin County Department of Agriculture
• University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE)/Marin County
• USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
• Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed (STRAW)
• Marin County Farm Bureau
As news articles began sounding the alarm about California's drought, the Marin organizations began fielding calls from farmers and ranchers asking about drought resources.
"We're in the midst of potentially the worst drought to hit California in 50 years," said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., CEO of MALT. "A group of organizations is taking collective action to address this dire threat to Marin County's ranchers and farmers and our food security."
DRAWS Initiative Builds on MALT's Stewardship Assistance Program
"The DRAWS initiative is a direct response to worsening drought conditions and builds on MALT's highly successful Stewardship Assistance Program," said Eric Rubenstahl, MALT's stewardship program manager.
As part of the DRAWS initiative, MALT is investing $250,000 in drought resilience and water security projects through an extension of its Stewardship Assistance Program (SAP), which awards grants that provide farmers and ranchers with the resources they need to sustainably steward their land.
Created in 2002 as an effort to improve soil and water quality in the region, SAP has served as an effective tool in increasing agricultural utility and improving ecological function on MALT ranches. Due to the widespread nature of the drought crisis, the DRAWS initiative will expand SAP to accept grant applications from all ranchers and farmers in Marin County, not only those protected by MALT agricultural conservation easements. DRAWS grants will be strategically evaluated based on their ability to create the greatest long-term value for the agricultural community.
Mike Giammona, owner of Millerton Creek Ranch, reports that the drought has caused natural springs to dry up, risking the health of his cattle herd. A new technical plan and funding assistance will allow Giammona to pipe water from the ranch's reservoir to their existing water infrastructure.
"Without this immediate support, I'm not sure our cattle would have survived," said Giammona. "I can't thank MALT enough for being ready and available to support farmers and ranchers when we need it most-especially when it comes to getting through this drought."
Collective Action Focused on Local Drought Relief
Each of the organizations designating resources and providing funding is offering support in alignment with their respective missions. For example:
• MRCD is coordinating water development and soil health projects across the region.
• Marin County Department of Agriculture is coordinating efforts with various water agencies to provide access to non-potable water for irrigation. They have received approval for a $50,000 cost-sharing program-and are working on approval for an additional $150,000-for drought relief for ranchers.
• The UCCE is providing a workshop in May focused on drought management and is publishing resources for farmers and ranchers.
"This drought affects our entire community, and it is extremely important that we each do our part to conserve water," said Nancy Scolari, executive director of MRCD. "It is equally important to support our food producers with water infrastructure and resource needs as they struggle with farming decisions about fallowing fields, early cattle sales and expensive water trucking strategies. We want to help everyone weather this crisis."
"Our many local, state and federal partners have joined forces to support our agricultural industry during this historic drought," said Stefan Parnay, acting agriculture commissioner for Marin County. "It is incumbent upon all of us to come together as a community to ensure our agricultural producers who provide us with essential farm-fresh commodities and value-added products continue to thrive. Bold, creative, long-term solutions are needed to help our producers be drought resilient into the future."