Farmland-protection program survives in state budget
» August 24, 2007 «
Family farmers and ranchers praised Gov. Schwarzenegger and the state Legislature for preserving a popular farmland-protection program in the state budget signed by the governor today.
The budget maintains $39 million for the state government contribution to the program, known as the Williamson Act. The program provides a lower property-tax rate to farmers and ranchers who agree to maintain their land in agricultural production.
"The Williamson Act is the most successful environmental-protection program in California history," California Farm Bureau President Doug Mosebar said. "We appreciate the commitment the governor and the Legislature have made to maintaining the environmental benefits of productive farmland."
Farmers and ranchers urged the state to restore the program, after it was initially slated for removal in the governor's May budget revision.
"Through personal visits, phone calls, letters and e-mails, farmers and ranchers reinforced the crucial role that the Williamson Act plays in protecting productive farmland from conversion to other uses," Mosebar said. "We're gratified that the governor and the Legislature ultimately agreed that the program's benefits to the environment and economy far outweigh its relatively small cost."
The Williamson Act protects more than 16 million acres of farmland in 52 California counties. Mosebar called that "a huge benefit for a small investment" and noted that many farmers and ranchers consider the program vital in allowing them to continue to produce food, fiber and flowers.
"Urban growth keeps California farmland under constant pressure," he said. "State and local governments should be very proud of their ongoing commitment to protect farmland and open space through their participation in the Williamson Act."
The California Farm Bureau Federation, the state's largest farm organization, works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 92,000 members.
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