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B. Develop Agricultural Land Stewardship Plans for Projects

Normally a draft Agriculture and Land Stewardship Plan (ALSP) would be provided to the public at the same time as draft CEQA/NEPA environmental documents, but not later than construction or implementation of a project. To the extent they apply, the strategies of the Tool Box of Potential ALS Strategies should be considered in developing the ASLP. However, not all of the strategies will apply to a specific project. In fact, some of the strategies may provide different approaches that are not compatible.

The primary responsibility for preparing and implementing an ALSP lies with the program or project proponent. ALSPs can be useful at the landscape, regional or site-specific level. They may look quite different depending on the level involved. As discussed in Strategy E1.1 on Early Project Planning, local or regional entities such as the local counties, the Delta Conservancy and the Delta Protection Commission, may want to consider developing a landscape or regional ALSP which could help identify places where special attention should be given to preserving agricultural land, as well as establishing a framework within which site- specific projects can work. More site-specific projects can take advantage of information developed in regional or landscape ALSPs but will probably be more focused on the use of the property being developed. If a farmer is involved in carrying out a site-specific project, another agreement, sometimes called an ALSP, may be needed that sets forth the responsibilities of the farmer. Part of this agreement may be a requirement that the farmer carry out identified agricultural land stewardship measures.

Development of an ALSP should occur during the planning process of a project and should involve the local community along with local, state and federal agencies. Involvement of the landowner and the county where the property is located is particularly important and recognizes that local interests have unique and specialized knowledge of the region. In addition to the landowner and/or farmers affected, at a minimum, the following organizations or types of organizations should also be consulted:

Local government, SACOG and other councils of government

• Federal and state resource and regulatory agencies
• Organizations with a regional interest such as the Delta Conservancy, the Delta Protection Commission and the Delta Stewardship Council
• Resource Conservation Districts
• Local colleges and universities, including the Agricultural Extension Service
• Local labor and farm worker organizations
• Local economic development corporations
• Tribal representatives
• NGOs representing farmers
• NGOs representing entities that promote habitat protection and restoration activities.

The basic components of an ALSP could include the following:
1. Promote Agricultural Productivity of Farmland

a. Early Planning (Strategies D1.1, D1.2, D1.3, E1.1, E.1.2, E.2.1, E.2.2, and E.2.3)

  • Identify existing land uses and relation to other planning efforts
  • Identify how a proposed project can be part of or complement existing land uses, including agricultural use; flood management; mitigation and enhancement of aquatic and terrestrial habitat; recreation; and tourism
  • Establish a public advisor position to serve as an information source for those wanting to know more about a proposed project (Strategy D5.1)

b. Site-Related Avoidance and Mitigation (Strategies E1.3.1)

  • Try to avoid impacting agricultural lands (especially those identified as prime, unique, high value or important for the viability of local agriculture)
  • Give priority to appropriate public lands and existing conservation lands
  • Develop measures to reduce conflict between agriculture and nearby habitat lands by implementing good neighbor policies such as managing project lands to avoid impacts, establishing buffer zones, and developing compensation funds and agreements that protect landowners from endangered species liabilities (Strategies A4.1, A4.2, and A4.3)

c. Mitigate On-site (Strategy E1.3.1)

  • Design the project to optimize contiguous parcels for farming
  • Plan the project so that farming can continue during and after the project as much as possible
  • Provide alternate access for roads, drainage and irrigation if existing access is disturbed.
  • Save and reuse soil removed for project purposes

d. Consult with farmers on the role they wish to take, if any (Strategy E1.2.1)

  • Develop working landscapes where possible (Strategies E1.1 and E1.2.1)
  • Keep project land in private hands where possible and make local government whole (Strategies E2.4 and A5)
  • Compensate farmers to help manage project lands (Strategies E1.2.2 and E1.2.3)
  • Partner with landowners and others to maintain and enhance environmental quality on farmland (Strategy B1)
  • Manage land to reduce subsidence and sequester carbon (Strategy C1, C2, and C3)
  • Provide incentives to take part in market based conservation programs (Strategy B2)

e. Ways to track Implementation (Strategy E1.1)

  • Provide a framework for adaptive management with regard to agricultural land
  • Provide a plan for reporting and monitoring to show that the actions agreed to in the ALSP are being carried out.

2. Minimize Impacts on Williamson Act Lands

a. Make sure that proper notice and findings are made (Strategy E2.2)

b. Work with counties where Williamson Act land is located to expand Williamson Act authorized uses to include open space/habitat lands in Williamson Act Preserves (Strategy E2.3)

3. Mitigation Under CEQA/NEPA for Conversion of Farmland

a. Baseline - Determine the basis for mitigation (Strategies E1.3 and A5)

  • Prime agricultural land, unique farmland or farmland of statewide significance
  • Farmland of local significance and grazing land
  • Temporary conversion

b. Off-Site Terrestrial Resources

  • Determine whether agricultural land preserved for terrestrial species preservation or mitigation can count for agricultural land preservation (Strategies E1.3 and A5)
c. Determining Mitigation for CEQA/NEPA Impacts
  • Mitigate for off-site impacts such as increased (Strategy E1.3.2)
  • Determine appropriate ratio for mitigation lands for agricultural conversion (Strategies E1.3 and A5)
  • Decide whether to use conventional mitigation that relies entirely on purchase of easements in the path of development or use an optional approach that can use a mix of conventional mitigation and other programs that will benefit agricultural activity in the area affected. (Can include most of the Strategies), especially E1.3, A1.1, E1.3.2, E1.3.3, A2, A3.1, A3.2, A4.1, A4.2. A4.3, A5, B1, C1, and C2 )

4. Mitigation for Social/Economic Impacts (Strategy E1.3 and E1.4)

a. Work with others to find funding to mitigate for social and economic impacts not mitigated through CEQA/NEPA. Possible sources include establishing a greenhouse gas offset market using credits created through the development and restoration of wetlands; using "Cap and Trade" program funds, reinstating state funding for California Land Conservation Act subventions; recommending funds to be included in any bond measure; and others. (Can include most of the Strategies, especially E1.4, E1.5, A1.1, A1.2, A1.3, A2, A3.1, A3.2, A4.3, B1, B2, C1. C2, C3, D1.1, D1.2, D1.2, D2, D3, D4, D5.2, D5.3, E2.1, and E2.5)

Samples of proposed or actual ASLPs will be posted on the ALS website, when available, at https://AgriculturalLandStewardship.water.ca.gov/

ALS Workgroup: ALS Framework and Strategies: Section IB:  Develop ALSPs: 061014