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July 2007

THE URBANIZATION OF CALIFORNIA FARMLAND

Governor Schwarzenegger released his May budget revisions and revealed a small but truly bad idea. He decided to cut the Williamson Act subsidiary to save the state $40 million. This revision to the states budget dumps the costs of preserving farmland on rural agricultural communities that simply cannot afford to lose this vital reimbursement from the state. The Williamson Act was put into place to reward agriculture and help fight off development and urban sprawl by giving farmers and ranchers a break on their property taxes. 

Since it’s inception in the 1960’s, the Williamson Act has been highly successful.  More than 16.5 million acres of farm and ranch land, including 6 million acres of California’s prime farmland, are enrolled in this program. Colusa County currently has 41 percent of the counties total acreage enrolled in the Williamson Act, Glenn County has 46 percent, Yolo County has 63 percent, and Butte County has 19 percent.

Family Water Alliance, and many others have fought to save agriculture and this is no easy task. At every turn there is something or someone trying to ruin our way of life. Agriculture is vital to our communities, families and state. The Williamson Act was created to preserve farmland and without it, it is all too easy to sell out to the highest bidder, namely developers. 

The devastation this budget cut will have on our rural communities is immeasurable. Though many say that it will never go through, we must continue to be a voice at the table to protect agriculture. We must continue to educate our leaders on the importance of agriculture and not let them be misled. This cut would make us more vulnerable to urbanization than ever before. ■

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