Darrell Hansen of Humboldt Creamery gives an assist to one of the creameries newest employees (Photo by Carrie Branovan)

Darrell Hansen of Humboldt Creamery gives an assist to one of the creamery's newest employees (© 2006-2007 Carrie Branovan)

 

"Without the funding for the subventions, counties will be forced to discontinue their participation in the Act. This would come at a time when California is facing tremendous population pressure and would further jeopardize the economic and environmental contributions from family farms and ranches"

 

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Williamson Act in Jeopardy Again

California’s most important land conservation program is being threatened for the first time in four years as Governor Schwarzenegger tries to close a lingering structural budget deficit.

The California Land Conservation Act of 1965, better known as the Williamson Act,
created a program for counties to protect viable agricultural land by offering a tax incentive to property owners for keeping their land in agricultural production. The Act provides an arrangement where private landowners voluntarily restrict their land to agricultural uses under a Land Conservation Contract with the county. The contract is an enforceable restriction on land and is binding on successors to both the landowner and the local government.

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors first adopted guidelines for the Williamson Act locally on June 24, 1969. From 1972 to 1981 nearly 243,000 acres were put under contracts in the County. In 2002 revisions included established Farmland Security Zones and a 10% reduction from the Factored Base Year Value to make sure that all participants received some tax relief. Currently there are just over 280,000 acres in the program in 155 established preserves and 1450 parcels in Humboldt County alone.

This is the first time that Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed elimination of state funding for the program. Thankfully there is already a groundswell of support in the Legislature to maintain the funding. Members of the Legislature have told the governor that while they understand the need to correct the budget’s structural deficit, they do not support a de facto repeal of the Williamson Act. Immediately following the governor’s announced cuts, members of the State Senate and Assembly went on record in strong support of open-space subvention funding. State Senator Pat Wiggins and Assembly member Patty Berg are strong supporters of the Williamson Act program and the subventions that are essential to county participation.

It is vital that the Williamson Act continue to help protect our rural environment. It would
be unwise to eliminate a highly successful program like the Williamson Act that protects
our most fertile production land. Without the funding for the subventions, counties will
be forced to discontinue their participation in the Act. This would come at a time when
California is facing tremendous population pressure and would further jeopardize the
economic and environmental contributions from family farms and ranches.

If you care about the rural heritage of our state and the land that this program protects,
contact the governor and urge him to save the Williamson Act by maintaining the $39
million for Budget Item 9100: Tax Relief.

Write to: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
1st Floor State Capitol
Sacramento, Ca 95814