Agriculture and Land Stewardship Framework

Agriculture in the Central Valley

ALS Strategies can help maintain agricultural lands that provide benefits to farmers and the environment.

Projects that convert agricultural lands for urban uses (e.g., residential, commercial, industrial) can compromise an area's ability to support agriculture. Other projects may promote open-space benefits, such as flood management or wildlife habitat on agricultural land, but may limit or eliminate agricultural uses on those lands. For many years, governmental and other organizations have encouraged programs that promote the stewardship and enhancement of environmental benefits on agricultural land as a way to protect natural resources while keeping the land in agriculturally productive private ownership. More recently, attention has been focused on the social and economic impacts of taking agricultural land out of production.

The Agriculture and Land Stewardship (ALS) Framework and Strategies were developed and based on input from local landowners and other local interests on what they would like to see considered by project proponents for projects that will affect agricultural land. Not all of the ALS Strategies will apply to a specific project. In fact, some of the ALS Strategies may provide different approaches that are not compatible. 

Some of the ALS Strategies can be used by project proponents to work with local government and landowners to avoid or minimize impacts on agricultural land and operations, and to consider local and regional plans. Some of the ALS Strategies provide options to consider for environmental mitigation required under the California Environmental Quality Act. Other ALS Strategies can assist in maintaining the agricultural viability and sustainability of the area where the project is located. Finally, some of the ALS Strategies discuss opportunities to keep local landowners and farmers on the land by participating in project activities, when a project involves conversion from agriculture to other open space uses.

ALS Planning is consistent with State and Delta regional policies and plans, including:

  • California Agricultural Vision
  • California Department of Food and Agriculture's Climate Change Consortium for Specialty Crops
  • Draft Governor's Environmental Goals and Policies Report
  • California Air Resources Board's Cap and Trade Auction Proceeds Investment Plan
  • California Natural Resources Agency Climate Change Adaptation Strategy
  • California Water Plan Update 2013
  • Delta Stewardship Council's Delta Plan
  • Delta Protection Commission's Economic Sustainability Plan
  • Delta Conservancy's Strategic Plan.

Agriculture and Land Stewardship Framework

The ALS Framework and Strategies encourage the exploration of a voluntary process that engages project proponents and other interested parties in pursuing mutually beneficial solutions that consider the following fundamental premises:

  • provide the environmental and habitat benefits that are part of the project
  • are consistent with state and regional polices
  • provide opportunities for farmers to stay on the land
  • maintain agricultural and economic viability in the area where the project is located
  • support the stability of local governments and special districts

Framework and Strategies

The strategies are guided by the Framework. The discussion of each strategy covers its topics in the following order:

  • Description of the strategy
  • Related policies and programs
  • Issues
  • Opportunities and potential partners

The strategies are organized in five categories:

Discussion Papers

The following white papers provide insight into the potential use of ALS strategies to achieve a mitigation or enhancement goals in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  

  • Agricultural Land Stewardship Strategies Discussion Paper: Maintaining Delta Agriculture
  • Draft Discussion Paper: BDCP and Delta Farmland

Additional Resources 

The following documents provide additional resources. 

  • California Litigation on Agricultural Resources
  • Good Neighbor Checklist

Background

The ALS Framework and Strategies were developed and published by a DWR workgroup in 2014. The work began with an Agricultural Land Stewardship Strategy Discussion paper begun in 2013. After consulting with and receiving encouragement from various individuals, interest groups and local, regional, state and federal agencies interested in agriculture in the Delta, the workgroup began work on the strategies. The workgroup developed a list of strategies for a Tool Box of what was eventually called ALS Strategies. In October 2013, we also included a Framework for Planning. The Framework provides some suggestions for how to incorporate the Tool Box of ALS Strategies into planning processes and how to develop Agricultural and Land Stewardship Plans for projects that make use of the ALS Strategies. The work product was placed on a public website and the work group asked for input from the public In May 2013, October 2013 and June 201

During the process, the name of the strategies was changed from Agricultural Land Stewardship Strategies to Agriculture and Land Stewardship Strategies. Several comments were received that said that some of the strategies, such as having local landowners manage restoration land, did not promote agriculture and, therefore, should not be called agricultural land stewardship. The goal behind developing these ALS Strategies was to provide proponents of projects that affect agricultural land with a tool box of a broad set of strategies that would take into account local concerns. Most of the strategies are focused on helping agriculture. However, recognizing that some projects will take land out of agriculture, several strategies for good land stewardship encourage continued involvement of local landowners in managing project lands. The name of the Strategies was changed to recognize that some of the strategies are agricultural stewardship strategies and some are land stewardship strategies.

Some of the comments received asked for clarification of who the strategies are directed to and how they should be applied. The ALS Framework and Strategies can provide project proponents and those affected by the projects with a collaborative approach for addressing impacts associated with the use of agricultural land for project purposes and the conversion of agricultural land to different uses, especially uses that continue an open space use of the land. The ALS Framework and Strategies encourage the exploration of a voluntary process that encourages project proponents and other interested parties in pursuing mutually beneficial solutions that are based on the following fundamental premises:

  • provide the environmental and habitat benefits that are part of the project
  • are consistent with state and regional polices
  • provide opportunities for farmers to stay on the land
  • maintain agricultural and economic viability in the area where the project is located

Related Pages

Contact Us

For information regarding the DWR Agricultural Lands Stewardship Workgroup, contact us at
DWRAgriculturalStewardshipInfo@water.ca.gov.