From the daily archives: Wednesday, July 20, 2011

By Kate Campbell
Assistant Editor

After months of uncertainty, a bill signed by Gov. Brown last week reinstates a revised Williamson Act program intended to preserve the state’s landmark farmland-conservation law. Brown signed Assembly Bill 1265 by Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, which establishes the revised form of the Williamson Act through 2016.

The bill, which takes effect immediately, authorizes counties to revise the term for Williamson Act contracts from 10 years to nine years or from 20 to 18 years—a 10 percent reduction in contract length in return for retaining 90 percent of the property tax relief offered by the act.

“For more than 45 years, the Williamson Act has served as an effective conservation program that helps farmers withstand development pressures and stay in farming,” California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said. “We applaud the governor for upholding the real benefits of the Williamson Act.”

The act became law in 1965 and protects 16.5 million acres of California farmland. Named for its author, Kern County Assemblyman John Williamson, the law requires farmland enrolled in the program to be assessed on its production value, rather than its “factored base-year value” under Proposition 13. Participating landowners agree to retain their land in agricultural use for the length of the contract.

For many years, the state reimbursed participating counties their foregone property tax revenue. But those payments, known as subventions, became a frequent bargaining point in state budget talks and eventually were eliminated.

That caused some counties to consider discontinuing the Williamson Act. Farm Bureau proposed the program contained in AB 1265 as an alternative to encourage counties to maintain the Williamson Act.

Wenger said the law signed by the governor “will save farmers and ranchers throughout California millions of dollars in property taxes and we’re glad he signed it. The benefits to all Californians include locally produced food and contracts that ensure land enrolled in the program cannot be used for any purpose besides agriculture.”

Having the law officially back on the books is especially important for eight counties that have already adopted the revised version of the farmland protection program. Kings, Madera, Merced, Mendocino, Shasta, Stanislaus, Tulare and Yolo counties all adopted an earlier version of the program under Senate Bill 863 last year, only to see it repealed in March as part of budget legislation. The governor’s action means the counties currently participating in the program can continue to implement the shorter-term contracts for the 2011 tax year.

The provisions of the alternative funding mechanism include:

• If counties receive less than one-half of their foregone General Fund property tax revenue from the Open Space Subvention Program, they would be authorized to implement a new provision of the Williamson Act to allow contracts to go from 10 years to nine years or, in the case of 20-year Williamson Act contracts, to 18 years.

• The 10 percent reduction in the length of the contract restrictions would trigger a recapture of 10 percent of the participating landowners’ property tax savings.

• Any increased revenues generated by properties under a new contract will be paid to the county. Because the increased revenue will be allocated exclusively to counties, they would recoup 50 percent or more of their foregone property tax revenue.

• Landowners may choose not to renew their contracts and begin the termination process.

“The eight participating counties can expect to recoup $6 million in revenue through this revised program,” said John Gamper, CFBF taxation and land use director. “Once adopted by counties, the program’s operations should be pretty simple.”

At the same time, the benefits to the public of protecting farmland have been retained, Wenger said.

“Besides locally produced food, experts agree agriculture will provide economic stimulus for the foreseeable future,” he said. “We’ve reached a point where people understand how significant food production is and that in California the pressures on farmland and farmers are intense, which tends to drive up land values.

“The Williamson Act helps address some of those issues and at the same time preserves open space for species and habitat protection,” Wenger said. “And, with the revised Williamson Act signed by the governor, funds to cover subventions to counties for foregone property tax no longer come from the state’s General Fund, but the benefits to farmers and the public remain.”

Along with acknowledging Nielsen’s role in introducing the bill, CFBF Administrator Rich Matteis noted that Sens. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Doug La Malfa, R-Richvale, both served as principal co-authors.

“Of course, we also want to express our sincere appreciation to Gov. Brown for helping to save this valuable land conservation program,” Matteis said, “and to all the members of the Save the Williamson Act Coalition who worked diligently for re-enactment of the law.”

In a prepared statement, Nielsen said the new law “will provide peace of mind and hope for the future for our hard-working California farm families and their employees.”

(Kate Campbell is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.


By Mario Conde

The Calexico Unified School District board voted to move students from Jefferson Elementary School to Blanche Charles due to newly found damages due to the 2010 Easter Sunday earthquake.

Originally. the Jefferson Elementary School remodelization project was scheduled to be finished by December 2011 and have student occupancy by February 2012. However, due to recently found damages to non-weight-bearing walls at Jefferson Elementary School resulting from the April 10, 2010 7.2 earthquake, it was decided to move students to the west side of Caleixco to continue with the 2011-12 school year. Jefferson students that are in Kinder and first grade will be moved to Dool Elemenary. Fragale is hopeful that all repairs will be finished by April 2012.

Superintendent Richard Fragale said that electricity needed to be shutdown since its needs to be re-wired and that would cost of hundreds of dollars to repair.The district will have to displace over 500 students in modular classrooms located at the original Blanche Charles Elementary School/Robert Morales Adult Education Center sites for the upcoming school year.

The District inspected the modules and it was found that the fire alarm system was unoperable, requiring the necessary repairs and installation of the equipment. The fire alarm system is a life safety requirment by the Department of State Arquitects.  The Board of Education approved the emergency purchase of fire alarm equipment from Standard Electronics in the amount of $85,300. The vote was 4-1 having Trustee Kim the only one opposing it.

Trustee Joong Kim wanted to table this item at the beginning of the meeting since he argued that the District needs to have a meeting with parents since they need to have information about this change that could have negative effects on the children. Kim questioned as to why the district is putting the parents aside and not taking their concerns.

Calexico resident Chris De La Rosa asked the board to take action as soon as possible since Jeffersn staff is coming back to work in three weeks. De la Rosa said that waiting to have meeting will make things more difficult for the kids and teachers. Jefferson Teacher Elsa Chairez asked the board that if they are moving they should keep their Principal Lucio Padilla and Julia Gamboa as administrators at Jefferson Elemantary since they have been excellent leaders for the school. Chairez mentioned how the school overcame the challenge of the massive 7.2 earthquake and will face the challenge of moving  to temporality location.

“We ’re still going to be the Jefferson Tigers, but if we  are going to move to another location you need to keep the team togheter.” Chairez said.


By Bob Hurst

Milwaukee became the first team to make a big splash before the July 31 trade deadline by acquiring closer Francisco Rodriguez last week from the New York Mets.
What other teams will dive in and make a major trade to bolster their lineups for the stretch run? Who are the players likely to be dealt?
American League contenders, such as Boston, the New York Yankees, Cleveland, Detroit, the Chicago White Sox, Texas and Los Angeles Angels could be in the market for that key piece that will put them over the top.
In the National League, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, San Francisco and Arizona also will keep the phone lines open.
Here are some of the names, and teams that might be interested in them:
CARLOS BELTRAN, OF, METS — Healthy again, Beltran came into Tuesday’s game batting .257 with 14 home runs and 59 RBIs. He has been one of the most talked about players who could be traded by July 31. The Giants, Tigers, Rangers, Red Sox, Phillies, Yankees, Indians and Pirates are all interested. The Mets might eat most of the $6 to $7 million owed to Beltran to get several good prospects. Beltran is in the last season of a seven-year deal and is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season.
HEATH BELL, RP, PADRES — Another player frequently mentioned, and with a lot of interest from teams such as the Phillies, Reds, Cardinals, Angels, Rangers, White Sox and Yankees. Bell has 26 saves in 28 opportunities with a 2.54 ERA. The Padres would probably want a couple of draft picks and more. Bell says he would be open to a set-up role in a contenders’ bullpen.
B.J. UPTON, CF, RAYS — With Tampa Bay 6 1/2 games behind the AL wild-card leading Yankees, they might be willing to part with their center fielder. Upton, who has 15 home runs and 52 RBIs, can give a club some offensive punch and speed with his 22 stolen bases. The Giants, Phillies, Braves and Indians could have an interest.
DEREK LOWE, SP, BRAVES — The 38-year-old veteran starter might be expendable because of Atlanta’s deep rotation. Any team in need of starting pitching, like the Tigers and Yankees, might be in the market for him. Lowe is 6-7 with a 4.37 ERA.
UBALDO JIMENEZ, SP, ROCKIES — Colorado might be crazy to deal a pitcher with so much talent, but if they can get a boat load of prospects for him, they just might pull the trigger. The Yankees and Tigers have shown interest. The 27-year-old right-hander has won four of his last five decisions and is 5-8 with a 4.08 ERA. Jimenez started out of the gate fast last season, winning 15 games at the All-Star break before a disappointing finish with just four more victories. His velocity is down and he’s had thumb and blister problems this season, but there’s plenty of upside for a contender. The Rockies won’t deal him though without getting a windfall in talent.
Others who could be on the market:
MIKE ADAMS, RP, PADRES — Phillies, Pirates and others looking for bullpen help.
HIROKI KURODA, SP, DODGERS — The Indians, Tigers, Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees or Reds would love to have him, but Kuroda has a no-trade clause and might not want to be dealt to an East Coast team, which would put him farther from his native Japan.
JOSH WILLINGHAM, OF, A’s — Could get some interest from the Giants, Reds, Phillies, Braves, Pirates and Tigers.
WILSON BETEMIT, IF, ROYALS — The Brewers might want an upgrade at third base where Casey McGehee’s production has slipped. Betemit will be a free agent after this season.
ANDREW BAILEY, RP, A’S — He’s under contract through 2014, but Oakland might be willing to listen to offers. Bailey is getting back on track after a forearm injury caused him to miss most of the first half.
IVAN RODRIGUEZ, C, NATIONALS — His experience could help a club down the stretch.
BRAD HAWPE, 1B/OF, PADRES — He’s a free agent at the end of this season. Has been on the DL with finger, elbow injuries, but could help a team in the playoff race when he returns.
LEO NUNEZ, RP, MARLINS — Now out of it, Florida might deal him.
JAMEY CARROLL, SS, DODGERS — Milwaukee might make an offer for him.
ALFONSO SORIANO, LF, CUBS — He’s owed nearly $63 million through 2014, but if a team like the Yankees can take him off their hands, the Cubs would be happy, even if they have to pick up much of the contract.
ARAMIS RAMIREZ, 3B, CUBS — A 10-5 player, Ramirez says that he’ll veto any trade. But he’s in the last year of his contract and could be persuaded if it’s the right fit. The Angels have shown interest,.

HUNTER PENCE, RF, ASTROS — He’s hitting .318 with 11 home runs and 61 RBIs, and leads the team in most major offensive categories. Like the Rockies Jimenez, it might seem crazy to trade him, but Houston might be willing to at least listen to offers.

Copyright © 2011  Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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