Political Action And Education Committee
The Farm Bureau Political Action and Education Committee (PAEC) focuses on a variety of local, state and federal issues that affect agriculture. The educational component provides information to the public so that the story of agriculture can be heard and understood. The political component works on numerous topics that include: land use, water, local government, taxes, air quality, state policy and federal legislation. The issues are dynamic and new topics are never in short supply.
Political Action & Education Committee Report
Reported by Peter Bradford, Committee Chair
Russian River and the Potter Valley Project
Water, the life blood for all of us growing or producing any agricultural crop in Mendocino County. We rely on our ability to use water to produce all our crops whether that is row crops, pears, grapes, livestock or timber. Without water, no crops.
Since 1908 water has been diverted from the Eel River through the Potter Valley Project into Potter Valley and from there into Lake Mendocino and the Russian River system. Many communities and agricultural operations from Potter Valley to Jenner depend on this water diversion for their livelihood.
Mendocino County Farm Bureau (MCFB) is working with the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission towards keeping the Potter Valley Project delivering the much-needed water that sustains agriculture and communities from Potter Valley downstream to Healdsburg. To accomplish this endeavor it will require funds and the education of a great many people. People who are not truly aware of where their water comes from and how vital that water is to their livelihood and their communities.
The Mendocino County Political Action & Education Committee (PAEC) will be helping to educate the public as this effort moves forward. Please take the time to get involved, notify your neighbors and friends and support Mendocino County Farm Bureau’s goal of keeping the water flowing.
Rail to Trail
State senator Mike McGuire’s plan to establish a 300-mile trail on the North Western Pacific Railroad tracks from San Francisco Bay north to Humboldt Bay is still chugging along. As you may recall, last year the Senator introduced SB 1029 to dissolve the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) and to establish the Great Redwood Trail along the rail right of way. MCFB worked with California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) to raise concerns about the legislation relevant to the approximately 1,300 parcels of private land that the NCRA right of way currently passes through in Mendocino County.
While the legislation was significantly amended in its final form to address some of the issues raised by CFBF, MCFB remains concerned regarding the impact of NCRA’s dissolution and subsequent transfer of the existing right-of-way to either the Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit (SMART) District (of which Mendocino County does not have current representation) and/or trail managers, following an assessment by the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA). The assessment by CalSTA is awaiting budget allocations and is anticipated to begin sometime after the July budget finalization.
In the meantime, the Senator introduced a related bill earlier this year, SB 356, which positions the SMART District as the successor agency to NCRA’s right-of-way from mile post 142.5 in Willits south. Concerns with this legislation as currently written includes: only having limited representation for Mendocino County on the SMART board (1 out of 13 seats), SMARTs ability to use eminent domain for property acquisition related to potential trail alignment, lack of public outreach with the establishment of a possible trail system and the use of rail crossing fees imposed on private property owners as an income source. SB 356 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee in April and MCFB has submitted a letter of opposition based on the concerns listed above.
With no real funding and estimates of hundreds of millions of dollars to build and operate a rail and trail line, McGuire’s vision for the “Great Redwood Trail” is years away from completion. More importantly, for those who live adjacent to the railroad line, is how the increased liability of having hikers strolling past farms and ranches will impact their lands and businesses. Mendocino County Farm Bureau members need to follow this closely in the future, so they don’t get railroaded!
ACA 1: Lowers Voter Threshold for Approving Local Taxes
Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 1 was introduced by Assembly Member Aguiar-Curry in March. ACA 1 proposes to lower the voter threshold from a two-thirds supermajority to 55% majority to approve local (city, county, and special district) GO bonds and certain special taxes for affordable housing, public infrastructure, and permanent supportive housing projects. California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) submitted comments in opposition to ACA 1 in a joint letter with a number of statewide business and taxpayer associations. Primary concerns include: the ability for local jurisdictions to more easily increase property taxes which will raise housing costs and be counterproductive to the ability to have affordable housing, increases the ability to have local add-on parcel taxes without adequate oversight and the erosion of taxpayer safeguards such as Proposition 13 limitations. ACA 1 is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and MCFB will continue to work with CFBF on the concerns related to ACA 1 as it progresses through the legislative process.