The Coastal Post - July, 1998

Farmland Protection Bill Isn't For Farms

By R.W. Thornton

The legislation proposed by Congresswoman Woolsey, and Senators Boxer and Feinstein, will not protect farmland, it will expand the Point Reyes National Seashore to include 38,000 acres of productive agricultural land. It is nothing more than park expansion according to the experts. The legal opinion of Remy, Thomas and Moose, LLP and the California Farm Bureau Federation confirm that this is a park expansion bill. All of the land becomes park land immediately upon enactment as Judy Borello stated in her article last month.

FUNDING - While Ms. Woolsey says this bill will provide $30 million in matching funds. Marin County does not have $30 million to put up as matching funds. To make matters worse, MALT did not meet the May month end deadline to use the $638,784 Prop 70 money that was available to them for conservation easements since 1988. According to the Board of Supervisors minutes of 6/2/98, the Marin County Board of Supervisors adopted Resolution 98-64 urging the State Department of Parks and Recreation, Senator John Burton and Assemblymember Kerry Mazzoni for last minute help in trying to get this money back.

RANCHERS DON'T WANT TO BE PART OF A PARK - Five ranchers, appeared at the hearing in Washington D.C. last October, to testify before the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, who are opposed to the bill. Another 4 ranchers sent their testimony to be included in the Congressional Record. The five ranchers who appeared in Opposition to this bill also represented the California Cattlemen's Associations, California Wool Growers Association and the Citizens for Protecting Farmland - a group of landowners and citizens who oppose this bill. As Judy Borello pointed out, the majority of landowners within the boundary, and the majority of landowners who sold conservation easements to MALT, are opposed to this bill.

THE AREA'S ALREADY PROTECTED - Zoning has been in place in Marin County for over 25 years that prevents any real development. In addition over 27,000 acres, in the proposed park expansion boundary, are already in the Williamson Act which demonstrates a commitment from the family farmers that they want to continue in agriculture.

VOTERS HAVE ALREADY SHOT DOWN TWO OPEN-SPACE MEASURES - The taxpayers have already defeated two ballot measures in Marin County and one measure at the state level which can be characterized as taxpayers not being willing to pay for additional open space.

You cannot preserve farmland by making it parkland! Family Farmers and farm organizations are in favor of conservation easement, not making farmland parkland. MALT should support family farmers and the farm organizations who are opposed to this bill not park expansion legislation. Ms. Woolsey should keep her word and drop the bill because she does not have the support of the agricultural community, landowners or farm organization.

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