Resources, Operational Efficiencies, and Infrastructure
Through a multi-partnership effort, which included Mono County, Eastern Sierra Land Trust received a selective portion of the RCPP for the Bi-State region in conservation efforts for Bi-State Sage-Grouse habitat rejuvenation. Landowners in portions of Inyo, Mono, and Alpine Counties of California. The project area for the RCPP is the same as that covered by the Bi-State Action Plan’s Population Management Units for sage-grouse, an area of 7,000 square miles. Financial assistance through RCPP will be awarded directly from NRCS to landowners who plan to carry out projects that will benefit the goals of this RCPP.
Operators are given financial assistance to plan and adopt conservation practices that will restore sage-grouse and other wildlife habitat, improve agricultural water quality, conserve private ranchlands, and upgrade agricultural infrastructure. Awarded a total of $8 million in NRCS funding, the funds will be allocated as $7,235,000 going to agricultural and wetlands conservation easement purchases; the remaining $765,000 will be applied to Environmental Quality Incentives Program projects. EQIP projects include many aspects, such as more efficient irrigation technologies, creating a secondary conservation measure.
Primarily, funds will cover the costs of conservation easements in the Bi-State area that will protect wetlands, conserve sage-grouse habitat, and safeguard productive lands against the threat of development or conversion of grasslands, including dryland range and irrigated pasture. RCPP activities related to Bi-State sage-grouse habitat are prioritized based on Bi-State Action Plan recommendations. Many of the lands will also follow a similar rubric to Conservation Easement criteria.
The duration of the RCPP is August 2017-June 2022. The funding application schedule will be determined by NRCS, and will be announced later this fall. It is likely that the first opportunity for landowners to apply for funding under the RCPP will be in early spring 2018.
Mono County has 13,110 prime acres in active Willimason Act contracts. Budget shortfalls of 2008 decimated the available funds to subsidize Counties lost tax revenue to $1000.00, statewide. Currently, The Mono County General fund has continued paying the tax credits provided to active Williamson Act parcels. If additional funding is available to enact new contracts, Agricultural Preserves have been established, documenting viable entry into a Williamson Act contract.
Commercial Kitchen Incubator/ Farmer's Market Hub:
There are many options within value added requirements of a cottage food permit, which are issued by Mono County Environmental Health. However, many products produced on farm need to be processed or prepared in a commercial kitchen. Though a ministerial permit, this can be an added cost for entry into the market. Each local community center has commercial kitchen appliances and the needed counter space required for food processing. Scheduling could follow the standard protocol for renting these spaces. This alternative process is currently allowed through the liability clause.
Mobile Slaughter Unit:
After-market processing of livestock determines the locale in which products are sold; retaining more locally sourced meats increase the multiplier effect and jobs available. There are currently no registered meat processors in Mono County (EH). Mono County Agriculture lands are permitted to operate slaughter following USDA and CA Food & Agriculture standards. Many operators send cattle either to Harris Ranch in the Central Valley, or to auction (AG). Based on the natural and organic meat market, Mono County could add value to the 10,000 plus cattle & calves and 15,000 plus sheep & lambs through local processing.
Cold-Frame Hoop-House Policy:
In addition to adoption of California Building Code Appendix C Group U: Agriculture buildings, an interpretation for permit exemption for construction of cold-frame hoop-house membrane structures has been drafted. In contrast to using artificial light, greenhouse systems offer an amplification of light to the plant through 4-6mm polyurethane plastic stretched along a rigid frame. This membrane follows the definition parameters of “shade cloth structures”. While much of the radiation can be retained with thermal mass, these structures may also utilize covering the structure for light elimination in order to trigger certain plant stages with shade cloth variations. Greenhouses are an economic and environmental solution to crop productivity.
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