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January, 2008



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Moo Town News
By Judy Borello

Starting the New Year Right
As 2008 begins, I think it's important for people to understand that land use rights and agricultural sustainability go hand in hand. It's definitely not one versus the other.
Without protections for their land use rights, ranchers and farmers would lose the freedom to determine the agricultural use of their own lands, they would not be able to secure loans to keep their ag operations viable, their properties would lose value for prospective easement opportunities, and their ability to continue farming or to pass along their lands to successive generations would be limited or eliminated.

The Marin County Farm Bureau, along with its state organization, the California Farm Bureau Federation, are committed to the same fundamental goals and policies that include sustainability of agriculture and upholding land use rights. At the California Farm Bureau Federation's annual state meeting last month, private property rights issues were at the forefront. To prevent eminent domain abuse, CFBF co-sponsored the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act, a June ballot measure. California Farm Bureau Federation's president, Doug Mosebar, awarded the CFBF President's Award to San Joaquin County farmer and former U.S. Representative Richard Pombo, who served on the House Agriculture Committee and is known as a champion of private property rights and an advocate of science-based environmental policy.

Marin County Farm Bureau should be respected and applauded by all of us for what it is doing and what it has done for the agriculture community, its landholders and the people of Marin County. In the mid 1990s, Farm Bureau led the way in the fight to keep ag lands from being gobbled up by the Pt. Reyes National Seashore under Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey's park expansion bill. An overwhelming majority of its members, over 90% of the landowners - the actual stakeholders - signed letters opposing the park bill. As with any democratic organization, the majority rules in Farm Bureau - then, as it does today.

When I hear of all the problems that ranchers who lease and operate in the park must contend with under the federal government - uncertainties surrounding the renewal or loss of leases, reduced incentives for maintaining or upgrading agricultural infrastructure, loss of organic certification due to federal actions, volumes of federal regulations not applicable to private property, and fear of retribution for criticizing their powerful landlord - I'm convinced that even those few who had wanted to sell out to the park back in the `90s must be thanking their lucky stars today that Farm Bureau stopped the bill before it made its way to the congressional floor!

Today, Marin County Farm Bureau should be commended for, among other things, its hundreds of dedicated volunteer hours spent in 2007 alone trying to right the wrongs in the Marin Countywide Plan update. MCFB once again had the support of an overwhelming majority of the ag community, as evidenced by a unanimous board and hundreds of signed letters and petitions from members and non-members alike.

And it wasn't just land use rights it was fighting for, although trails and house size received the lion's share of publicity. It also advocated strongly for fair policies regarding the ability to ranch or farm without having to seek permits, preventing new restrictions on the Inland Rural Corridor, the ability to have sales and processing facilities unencumbered by extra restrictions, the requirement to remove all non-native plants, the modification of overreaching streamside restrictions, the clarification of unscientific and inaccurate Special Status Species data, promoting conventional sustainable agricultural practices as well as organic ones, and much more.

MCFB has spent many years on the processes to update both the Development Code and the Countywide Plan. Farm Bureau members, past, present and future, should be proud of this worthy organization and of its ongoing hard work on behalf of all the agriculture community, including its landowners, and should support MCFB in its upcoming work on the Local Coastal Program update and amendments to the Development Code this year. Farm Bureau membership has many benefits, and MCFB welcomes new members.

On a related topic, I congratulate Farm Bureau member and supporter Warren Weber of Star Route Farms on his legal victory last month for his right to farm. It is lengthy, costly lawsuits like this that Farm Bureau fights to prevent, by working hard for sensible regulations - and that includes private property rights!

P.S. If you drink - don't herd! Call 1-800-COLLIE! Many tanked ewes (I mean thank yous) to Henry "Sonny" Grossi, past president of Marin County Farm Bureau, for always driving me to meetings and hearings, and bringing his "trusty pot" for me to climb up into his truck. Kind gestures from a gracious, generous gentleman. I salute you, Sonny!

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