In response to the impacts of COVID-19 on the Sonoma County agricultural community, Ag + Open Space has created the Agricultural Support and Protection (ASAP) Emergency Matching Grant Program. The ASAP Program will support farmers and ranchers who can demonstrate that financial assistance is needed to prevent the lands they farm from going fallow or being devoted to non-agricultural uses as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds awarded through the ASAP Emergency Matching Grant Program will contribute to keeping agricultural lands productive by mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 on Sonoma County’s agricultural community, the vitality of which is essential in the provision of local food, natural resource protection, scenic open space and economic opportunities.
In July 2020, the Ag + Open Space Board of Directors authorized the launch of this new grant program. Under the voter-approved Expenditure Plan, Ag + Open Space is authorized to devote funding to protect “agriculturally productive lands,” defined to include “working farms and ranches, and other lands used for the production of food, fiber and plant materials and the raising and maintaining of livestock and farm animals.” Paragraph 5 authorizes expenditures to undertake a potentially broad range of “other open space projects” through matching grants. Although the Matching Grant Program is usually applied to fund urban open space and recreation projects within and near incorporated or urbanized areas, the ASAP Program is a limited one-time expansion of the program to preserve agricultural land uses as “other open space projects” in this unique emergency circumstance. Applicants accepted into the ASAP program will be required to provide financial contributions, called matching funds, toward keeping the ASAP-funded agricultural operation in production. Examples of match include but are not limited to lease or mortgage payments, supplies and materials necessary for the operation, sales and donations of agricultural products, and/or other grant funds. The proposed budget for the ASAP Emergency Matching Grant Program is $1,000,000 and applications are due October 30, 2020.