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Sunday, May 27, 2007 

Santa Barbara is blessed with Agriculture

We have a thriving Farmer's Market, in fact several. Tuesdays and Saturdays, there's the Downtown Farmers Market. On Wednesday, it hits La Cumbre Plaza. On Thursday, Goleta and Carpinteria. On Friday, the jewelry rattling enclave Montecito has theirs. Sunday, Goleta has another one out near the airport. (In fact, I just went and picked up a bag of veggies today) Pistachios. Cheramoyas. Blueberries. Strawberries. Spinach. Fava Beans. Snap Peas. Oranges. And so much more. Fresh, mostly organic seasonal produce available year round. And, then of course, there's our now "hollywoodized" wine country, with mile after mile of vineyards.

But with more and more people wanting to live "the California lifestyle" (geez, I really hate that word..."lifestyle") developers are eagerly wanting to jump in and start putting up houses and stripmalls...on fertile agricultural land. Then, of course, there are the roads and freeways that are required to get the thousands of commuter cars around.
...9000 new homes are built south of Orcutt, 1300 up on Harris Grade Road and 295 are built at Seabreeze across Central Avenue from the Lompoc Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. On the City of Lompoc Web page....3600 residences listed as under construction or approved in the Lompoc area that are expected to produce an estimated 36,000 new vehicle trips per day. - The Lompoc Record.
But...hidden within our "Governator's" Budget Plan, could be the death of, not only our local agricultural landscape, but the entire State's.

The Ethicurean alerts us to a little "add on" on the Governator's budget plan
...If owners of working farms and ranches are required to pay property taxes based on their land’s residential or commercial valuation, they usually have no choice but to sell the land to developers. A 1965 California law known as the Williamson Act helps preserve farms and ranches by allowing those who enroll in the program to have their land taxed at a rate based on actual use, not potential use.

Buried in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget plans for next year is a small but truly bad idea. He wants to save $40 million by canceling a farmland preservation program.

He thinks he can dump the costs on rural and suburban counties, a favorite gambit of Sacramento budget balancers. In this case, however, he will unhinge a successful State plan that rewards agriculture and local government for staving off sprawl.

At issue is the Williamson Act, designed to give farmers and ranchers a break on property taxes. Counties are reimbursed by Sacramento when they lower property taxes for agricultural land. The idea is to remove a temptation to shut down operations and sell to the highest bidder, namely developers. For 40 years, the program has meant that Marin County hills, Sonoma County pastures and Contra Costa County vistas are dotted with crops or cows, not subdivisions. - SFGate

Once we lose agricultural land to development, there's no getting it back. And it's decreasing at a rapid pace.

California Department of Conservation statistics show that between 2002 and 2004, Fresno County lost 11 agricultural acres a day. Kern County lost 9 a day, Merced 4, Stanislaus 8, San Joaquin 5 and San Diego 10. Kings and Imperial both lost the equivalent of 6 acres a day during that period.

Statewide, the Division of Land Resource Protection, a branch of the Department of Conservation, said urban land expanded by nearly 93,000 acres between 2000 and 2002, as documented by the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program. The very best farmland, an irreplaceable natural resource, decreased during that time frame by nearly 50,000 acres, equal to about 74 square miles. - California Farm Bureau

This is not only scary news for those of us living in "the Golden State", it is a concern for every American. California supplies the country with a good portion of it's agricultural products.
California has been the nation's top agricultural state in cash receipts every year since 1948. - California Farm Bureau
Do we really want to end up importing all of our food from other countries who use pesticide that has been banned in the US for decades? Include plastic in food stuffs? Do not have safety and quality inspections that are required here in the US?

TAKE ACTION: Contact your State representative now.

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Excellent post, Cookie! Thanks for making the local push for this...

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