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Fall 2009

Farmland Preservation Program Cut

The preservation of farmland in California took another hit with the elimination of the Williamson Act in the most recent California budget. For nearly five decades, the Williamson Act has allowed landowners who promise to keep there land in agriculture for 10 years to receive a property tax reduction. Local government is then reimbursed through state Williamson Act subvention funding for the loss of property tax revenues.

With hopes that funding will be restored in next years budget, local governments have not set out to eliminate the program throughout the state. With 54 of California’s 58 counties participating in the farmland preservation program the cut could not have come at a worse time for local governments.

Williamson Act contacts are held between the county and the landowner leaving the county on the hook for the property tax reduction until the current contacts expire. If funding is not restored in a timely manner counties can decide not to renew contacts, but only landowners can initiate a cancelation of a contract all ready in place.

Restoration of funding for this important program will be crucial to the preservation of farmland in California by assuring that farming is a profitable industry. With most farmers owning or leasing thousands of acres of land, property taxes are one of the largest expenses for farmers each year. It is important to remember, farmland can only be paved over once. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. ■

Total Acres Enrolled
Williamson Act by County
Butte County
215,882 total acres
Colusa County
319,551 total acres
Glenn County
416,544 total acres
Tehama County
800,003 total acres
Yolo County
416,340 total acres
Acreage numbers are from 2007

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