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Regional Agriculture Program expands to San Diego and Riverside counties

FALLBROOK – In a move set to transform regional agriculture, the Regional CropSWAP program, originally initiated by the Rancho California Water District, announced its expansion into neighboring counties with the partnership of Fallbrook Public Utility District, Rainbow Municipal Water District, city of Oceanside, Valley Center Municipal Water District and city of Escondido.

The initiative offers significant financial incentives for implementation of sustainable practices, with the goal of empowering farmers to use water more efficiently while fostering a resilient agricultural economy.

CropSWAP, implemented in 2016 by Rancho Water, began as a response to severe drought conditions in the Temecula Valley and a struggling local agricultural economy. The original program paid agricultural water users to swap-out high-water-use crops with lower-water-use varieties, improving water use efficiency and bolstering the resiliency of local farms.

With the support of federal, state and local agencies, coupled with funding contributions from regional partners and a substantial $5 million grant from the California Department of Water Resources, the CropSWAP program now offers incentives for additional sustainable practices including irrigation system improvements, avocado tree stumping, rootstock replacements and regenerative agricultural practices such as nutrient management and cover crops.

“Agriculture is a keystone to southwest Riverside County. As stewards of our region’s water resources, Rancho Water is proud to have spearheaded the expansion of the Regional CropSWAP program. This initiative not only empowers our farmers to thrive but also strengthens our commitment to sustainable agriculture and water resiliency,” Robert Grantham, general manager of Rancho Water, said.

“Fallbrook agriculture has experienced numerous challenges over the past decade, including high costs of imported water,” Jack Bebee, general manager of Fallbrook Public Utility District, said. “This will help our local farmers get some of the resources they really need.”

According to Gary Arant, general manager of Valley Center Municipal Water District, “Our district has a long history going back into the early 1990s of assisting agriculture through seeking and securing over $156M wholesale ag water discounts and helping growers to participate in various on-farm improvement programs through the San Diego County Water Authority and the Mission Resources Conservation District. Now, we are very excited that our neighbor to the north, Rancho California Water District, has invited our agency, along with other San Diego County Water agencies, to participate in their expanded and extended CropSwap “2” Program. Building off of their original program, the new expanded program will provide state grant funding to help growers switch crops, rejuvenate existing orchards as well as improve horticultural and irrigation practices here in Valley Center and North County. We look forward to working with Robb Grantham and the Rancho Water staff to preserve and possibly expand commercial agriculture in Valley Center.”

“The innovative program will allow Rainbow Water to reinvest in our agricultural growers, a fabric of our community,” Jake Wiley, general manager of Rainbow Water, said. “This is an exciting opportunity to partner as a region to focus on water use efficiency projects that help support sustainable water rates for all our customers.”

“The city of Escondido is excited to participate in this groundbreaking regional program initiated by Rancho Water, which will provide grant funding to our local agricultural customers,” Angela Morrow, interim director of utilities for the city of Escondido, said. “Escondido is committed to supporting our agricultural community through emerging programs and innovative solutions.”

Lindsay Leahy, director of water utilities at the city of Oceanside, said, “The city of Oceanside is excited to offer this program in support of our agriculture customers. They are valued contributors to the history and diversity of our Oceanside community.”

For more information on how the Regional CropSWAP program is shaping the future of sustainable water for agricultural production, visit http://RegionalCropSWAP.com.

Submitted by Rancho California Water District.

 

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