NR 2005-21
October 3, 2005

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


SALINAS -- The State of California today will recognize Monterey County’s work to preserve agricultural land with the Williamson Act Stewardship Award.

“We applaud Monterey County’s commitment to creating an environment in which farming and ranching can thrive,” said Bridgett Luther Thompson, Director of the California Department of Conservation.

DOC will present a resolution commending the county’s stewardship of the Act at the Board of Supervisors meeting on October 4.

“Monterey County appreciates this recognition from the Department of Conservation,” Board of Supervisors Chairperson W.B. “Butch” Lindley said. “We are blessed with some of the best farmland in the world, and the Williamson Act is an important part of maintaining our agricultural heritage. Beyond that, the residents of Monterey County, as well as the many visitors we get from around the world, value our unique ambiance and our open space, and the Williamson Act helps maintain that atmosphere.”

Through its Division of Land Resource Protection, DOC administers or supports a number of programs designed to promote orderly growth in coordination with agricultural endeavors. That is a critical job, since the population of California is expected to grow from its current 38 million to 55 million by 2025, and the need for new homes will put strain on the nation's leading agricultural economy, valued at $33 billion last year.

One of the key tools available for land conservation planning is the Williamson Act, which provides tax incentives for landowners that keep large tracts of land in agricultural or open-space use. The law has been widely credited with discouraging ``leapfrog'' development, and more than 16 million acres – half of the state's agricultural landscape -- are currently enrolled in Williamson Act contracts.

As of the 2004-05 fiscal year, Monterey County had 767,084 acres of land enrolled in the Williamson Act, including 59,254 acres of prime farmland. Monterey County produced more than $3.3 billion worth of agricultural products in 2002-03.

"The Williamson Act has proven itself a powerful tool for the protection of agriculture,” said Bob Perkins, Executive Director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau. “It provides economic certainty for farmers and stability in land-use planning. As a voluntary, contract-based program, it is a model for cooperation between government and farmers. The Farm Bureau is committed to guarding the integrity of the Williamson Act.”

The Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association (MCVGA) also expressed its appreciation for the county’s recognition.

“The preservation of prime agricultural land is one of the keys to success in our industry and also to our fellow agriculture partners,” said Scott Storm, President of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association. “Great wines come from premier grapes grown on the proper farmland. As the local wine industry continues to gain momentum and garner accolades, we are sensitive to preserving the land that our high quality grapes are grown on.”

Said Dennis O’Bryant, head of DOC’s Division of Land Resource Protection: “Monterey County has made a determined effort to do things right in terms of administering the Williamson Act. That takes political courage and leadership.”