November 3, 2002
(Released by Governor's Press Office)


Contact: Ed Wilson
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
(916) 323-1886


Funds Ensure that 300 Acres of Prime Farmland
 in Merced and Monterey Counties Remain in Agricultural Use Forever

Governor Gray Davis today announced that two grants totaling more than $728,000 have been awarded to ensure that 300 acres of prime farmland in the Salinas and Central Valleys will remain in agricultural use forever.

"California has some of the best farmland in the world and agriculture remains the No. 1 business in the state," Gov. Davis said. "These grants are a step toward balancing the needs of a growing population with those of agriculture."

The money was used to purchase agricultural conservation easements on the farms. The property owners retain ownership and control of farm operations, but the non-agricultural development potential is permanently relinquished. The landowner receives monetary compensation and/or tax benefits.

The grants were issued through the California Farmland Conservancy Program, administered by the Department of Conservation. The program is funded by $25 million in Proposition 12 bond funds, approved by voters in 2000. Voter approval of Proposition 40 earlier this year provides funding for additional farmland conservation easements. The funding breaks down as follows:

Merced County, $355,750, with additional funding from the Great Valley Center. The Merced County Farmlands & Open Space Trust, with assistance from the American Farmland Trust, has created easements on three family farms totaling 102 acres near Delhi. Two of the farms grow almonds, while the other grows oat hay and sweet potatoes.

The transaction will help define the future boundaries of Merced County's fastest-growing community. Easements in the area create a nearly contiguous block of permanently protected farmland a mile wide. The project is expected to discourage Delhi from expanding south and encourage even more farmland conservation. That, in turn, could create habitat and watershed benefits since the Merced River is less than two miles south of the newly protected properties.

Monterey County, $373,850, with additional funding from the Packard Foundation. The Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy has created permanent easements on three parcels totaling 218 acres outside of Gonzales. Asparagus is grown on all three properties.

The properties are right in the path of development, located approximately one mile from the city of Gonzales. The Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy's acquisitions near Gonzales represent one of the most strategic uses of agricultural conservation easements in the state. With the addition of the latest parcels, more than 2,000 acres of irreplaceable prime farmland is shielded from development around Gonzales.

Since 1996, the California Farmland Conservancy Program has issued 39 grants totaling nearly $25.5 million to ensure that approximately 21,000 acres of the state's best farmland will remain in agricultural use. For additional information please visit the link below.