MODESTO -- Local leaders often tout the value of small countywide sales tax plans as high value return when promoting roadway improvements. They are called self-help plans. There is an economic benefit to the local community. The amount generated by the local fee is used to gain favor and dollars from state and federal funding sources. That funding in turn generates an expectation in the private sector that brings investment dollars and all that money turns over and over in the local economy called a multiplier effect. In other words, the amount the local taxpayer commits generates more from other sources to get us more roads, bridges, etc.
So, too, is the economics of farmland mitigation.
Small amounts of local funding generated by mitigation requirements for conversion of our better soils generates a multiplier effect for the local economy and institutes a disincentive to convert those valuable soils.
Farmland mitigation applied to our better soils is a local tool to direct urbanization to lesser soils. It also promotes urban infill projects and higher urban densities within new development. Local mitigation says that the community values the better soils and requires those seeking to change the current agricultural zone to urban uses to pay for that loss of value to the community.
Use of local mitigation fees leverages more funding from sources outside the local community and thus is a much broader support of farmland protection by the general community statewide and nationwide.
Support of farmland protection by funding programs at state and federal government levels recognizes that domestic food generation is a national security issue. Domestic farmland is a national and natural treasure.
The Central Valley of California is so important in its role of securing our self-reliance for food that eight of the top 10 food producing counties in the United States are here. Three Northern San Joaquin Valley counties are listed. San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties are top producers.
Central Valley Farmland Trust holds approximately 13,000 acres in agricultural conservation easements in these counties and Sacramento County.
One local example of leveraging mitigation values follows from construction of the Kaiser hospital in Modesto. The hospital paid about $450,000 to mitigate for the loss of 50 acres of prime farmland. That money was used to help secure more funding from state and federal sources to-date to protect300 acres of prime farmland three miles west of Modesto.
We leveraged over four times the local mitigation fee from other funding sources, for a total of almost $2 million, which was injected into the Stanislaus community to secure 300 acres for food production in perpetuity.
There are many choices for local leaders to make. One of the best self-help choices is to leverage more support for protecting our natural resource, prime farmland, through adoption of significant economic programs, such as farmland mitigation.
Jackman is president of the Central Valley Farmland Trust.