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What Farmers Think About Santa Clara County Measure A

There was a few comments on my last post that this will protect farms, well here is what farmers think about Measure A. This was published in the Gilroy Dispatch over the weekend.

Gilroy Dispatch
Letters to the Editor

Friday, November 03, 2006

Local Farmer Explains How Measure A Hurts Ag and South County

Dear Editor,

It struck a nerve when a councilman from Palo Alto wrote to the Gilroy Dispatch to say that Measure A won?t hurt farmers. I doubt that he would know since he?s not a farmer. I am a farmer and I?d like to share my viewpoint.

Measure A does not support working farms. It?s unfair to even claim that this is a measure to ?save the farmers? when not one farmer or rancher was asked for any input in drafting it. Not only do farmers and ranchers not support this measure, we have come out in force against Measure A.

I also have a problem with the notion that we need the people from the cities to form laws and measures to protect ?us simple folk in the country? because we are too idiotic to understand the complexities of a growing urban region and the impact it can have on our community. Thanks for the suggestion, but we would rather have a collected effort of all groups and stakeholders in our communities – not just the environmentalists – to form land use measures that will affect our community and our businesses for generations to come.

What will Measure A do for farmers and ranchers? Well its core purpose is to downzone property in the hillside and ranchlands. This will devalue the land, affecting our borrowing power and flexibility in a very volatile marketplace. Contrary to Palo Alto Councilman Peter Drekmeier?s statements, there is a lot of farming and ranching in those two areas – $8 million worth of cattle alone last year, along with wineries, row crops, hay and grain. These are real businesses trying to make a living and these measures just add more regulations and restrictions.

Besides devaluing our greatest asset, our land, Measure A contains restrictions on agricultural operations. The viewshed portions restrict where facilities can be located. The measure requires that most of our agricultural facilities be located within a 3-acre envelope. And it restricts what produce can be sold or used by farmers? markets and wineries in the ranchlands and hillside areas.

These restrictions show that the authors of Measure A clearly don?t understand the realities of farming. We all barter and sell produce to each other, and wineries regularly import grapes from within and from outside of the county when needed to make a specific wine or augment local production.

I am also a member of the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau?s Board of Directors, so I want to comment on the fundraising issue. Our elected board of working farmers voted to put $30,000 into the campaign to fight Measure A. While Mr. Drekmeier may not consider this much of a commitment, it is quite a bit to a small political organization of 350 family farmers.

We are very proud of our work to defeat Measure A. It doesn?t support farming, ranching or the wine industry. If you want to support farmers, buy California and local produce, or support measures that help agricultural businesses expand, not restrict and devalue them. I hope your readers will read the whole measure for themselves. I?ll be voting no on Measure A.

Tim Chiala, George Chiala Farms, Morgan Hill

Santa Clara County Measure A

Santa Clara County’s Measure A is a perfect example of what goes wrong when legislation is drafted in a closed door environment.  The draconian restrictions it would impose, if passed, would dramatically and adversely affect farmers, ranchers and owners of hillside properties – many of whom were not included in the process of drafting Measure A.

Over the years, these groups, in conjunction with environmentalists, realtors and taxpayer, have worked together to create clear and effective regulations within the General Plan, to strengthen environmental protections on the hillsides where opponents of Measure A live and work.  Measure A would invalidate all of these previous regulations and would replace them with unclear and untested rules, created by a minority group of environmentalists who are seeking a way to regulate land use without participating in the public process.

Most importantly, this initiative would have an undeniable and detrimental impact on local property values and property rights.  As written, Measure A would downzone and devalue over 400,000 acres in unincorporated Santa Clara County – which is roughly half the land in the county.  If passed, Measure A would increase minimum parcel sizes to 160 acres, require clustering of residential units and dedication of open space easements, prohibit construction of granny flats on single-family homes and restrict the construction of processing, storage and other non-residential structures.

Proponents of Measure A are encouraging support based on concern for the environment and the need for open space.  While these are valid concerns, the reality is that the majority of the land that would be affected is owned and utilized by ranchers and farmers.  These groups are extremely conscious of the environment and have historically worked to preserve and protect natural resources.  There is no need to impose regulations that not only ignore their previous protection of the land, but also severely limit their future ability to utilize the land and ensure their livelihood.

As residents of Santa Clara County, we are all responsible for the smart growth and use of our land.  To allow a small group to dictate the future use of over 400,000 acres, without widespread input, is not an exercise of that responsibility.  I plan to VOTE NO on Measure A and hope that the rest of our community does the same.