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Wednesday, July 29, 2009 

Hidden amongst the draconian cuts signed by The Governator

is perhaps one of the most important for those concerned with things "locavore", especially here in Santa Barbara.

Elimination of funding for the Williamson Act programs to preserve farmland from development.

With citizens, cities and counties being hit hard economically by this poor economy and sucked dry of funds from The State, they will be hard pressed to find further funds to keep afloat. Many will see developer money as a panacea and we may see precious farmland being paved over.

Have never heard of the Williamson Act? Well, many haven't and that is a shame.

Since its adoption 44 years ago, the California Land Conservation Act, popularly known as the Williamson Act, has grown into the state's most important farmland protection program. The Williamson Act has served California very well, but it is facing its most significant challenge due to the ongoing state budget crisis.

In addition to protecting one of our state's most valuable resources—our agricultural land—other significant benefits of the act must also be recognized and appreciated for their contribution to our quality of life: the protection of our precious watersheds; the availability of and access to a local, safe and affordable food supply; wildlife habitat; and the beautiful landscapes that are so important to all of our citizens.

...In addition to its significant impacts on the state and local economies, the Williamson Act is widely appreciated by those in the environmental, agricultural and business communities, as well as by state and local government officials, as one of the most important environmental laws ever adopted in California. It has encouraged good land use planning and prevented leapfrog developments that can be devastating to agricultural and natural resources.- California Farm Bureau Federation

Program benefiting farms and ranches gutted.

...Under the Williamson Act, landowners sign 10-year contracts with the county that allow ranchers and farmers to pay property taxes based on what they produce on their land, instead of charging them the same taxes residential landowners pay.

The state then reimburses the counties the difference.

As a result, county governments - not farmers - will initially see the effect from the funding cuts, said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.

..."That's discretionary dollars," Lees said, meaning the money can be used for just about anything.

Bundy said most ranches and farms under Williamson Act protection might be temporarily safe from drastic tax increases because of the 10-year contracts. But he was quick to add that he didn't know for sure.- Redding.com

...Farmland preserved by the Williamson Act takes more of the world’s primary greenhouse gas — carbon dioxide — out of the air than any other program now contemplated. More than the proposed tailpipe emission changes and carbon-trading programs proposed as ways to carry out the landmark 2006 AB32, the most aggressive anti-climate change bill ever passed anywhere. More than scrubbing every smokestack in California. More than all proposals to clean up ship- and truck-caused emissions from all California’s ports put together. - Ventura County Star

Now, more than ever, we need to support our farmers...our farmland...our open spaces our environment... because they are endangered more than ever.

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