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July 29, 2011

Wolk Bill Keeps Williamson Act Alive

Saturday, July 16th, 2011 | Posted by Jonathan Edwards

Wolk bill keeps

Williamson Act alive

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Friday to preserve a mechanism designed to keep California’s farmland from being developed.

“I applaud the governor’s decision to sign this measure into law to    protect this vital program, which keeps prime agricultural land in production and protects our state’s open spaces,” state Sen. Lois Wolk,  D-Davis, and co-author of the bill, said in a news release.

The Williamson Act is a three-way partnership between landowners, counties and the state wherein landowners agree to forego the possibility of developing their land during the term of the 10- or 20-year Williamson Act contract in return for lower property taxes.

Approximately half of California’s farmland, 16.6 million acres, is under Williamson Act contracts, Wolk said in a news release.

Assembly Bill 1265 provides counties with options after state subventions to the Williamson Act program were eliminated in the 2010-11 state budget with the passage of Brown’s budget bill (SB 80) earlier this year, according to the news release. The bill allows counties to voluntarily implement new land preservation contracts that are 10 percent shorter in return for a 10 percent reduction in the landowner’s property tax relief.

The bill also allows participating landowners to opt out of the new shorter contracts and lesser benefits by simply exiting the program through notice of nonrenewal. If landowners agree to enter into the shorter contracts, they would still save 90 percent of their property tax relief and counties would be encouraged to stay in the program.

“Without AB 1265, the only alternative for counties that cannot afford the loss of subventions would be mass contract non-renewals,” Wolk added in the news release, “and that could spell the loss of thousands of acres of this state’s best farmland. In addition to providing food and fiber consumed around the world, California’s farmers and ranchers play a vital role in our state economy. It’s important that we keep them working the soil.”

Ref: http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/ag-environment/wolk-bill-keeps-williamson-act-alive/

 

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