By Dayna Ghirardelli, Executive Director
Happy New Year! It is hard to believe that it’s 2023 already. There was a time in my life when the thought of 2023 was so far away, and we’d be living like “The Jetsons” with elaborate robotic devices, aliens, holograms, and imaginative inventions. That was so far-fetched, but was it? Between Tesla and other self-guiding vehicles to robotic milking machines to drones to Apple watches to Tupac on stage at a concert years after his death, [Tupac is a deceased hip-hop artist from the ’90s whose hologram was projected on stage at a concert, shocking viewers at how real it was.] seems like we are well on our way to Orbit City. As for the aliens, I’ll let you decide.
In each Farm News, we include a section called Ag Advocate, highlighting some of our advocacy efforts over the last month so that you, the members, can see a summary of the various issues we are participating in and advocating for. Along with the ongoing issues and conversations around drought, water use, the well-ordinance, fire resiliency, and climate action, to name a few, we’ve recently been entrenched in land-use issues around fencing in the coastal zone and the inefficiencies and inconsistencies around mountain lion depredation. Despite the commonsense nature of both issues, neither are easy, given the special interest groups who lack regard for private property and the well-being of pets and livestock.
I’m sure most of you have heard about the incident where a dog was snatched from its home through the sliding glass door by a mountain lion who then remained on the patio next to the dog, hissing at the owner through the glass door she was able to close. The news covered this harrowing story of a collared and tracked mountain lion who is older than average (because of its protection status), so its hunting tendencies were focused on easy prey like small livestock and, in this instance, pets. However, the story failed to mention that it took six days to euthanize the mountain lion because authorities chose not to offer the location of the mountain lion despite ongoing tracking data capabilities. They also failed to issue the proper credentials in a reasonable amount of time by issuing, then rescinding, then delaying the permit to legally take the mountain lion resulting in two more (bred) goats being mauled and killed by the lion. All this happened to the same person while being threatened to rescind the permit entirely if she went public with the inept process and protection of special interests by legal officials. A scary reality is that an agriculture-centric attorney characterized it as a win. Knowing the special interests at play, she was surprised the lethal permit was granted. This is concerning.
Another issue we have been working on is the concept of perimeter barbed wire fences on private property in the coastal zone being a violation of the county code Chapter 26 C, Article III- Land Extensive Agriculture Coastal District (LEA) and Article IV- Diverse Agriculture Coastal District (DA). Reading the titles of the articles alone makes me scratch my head in confusion at the violations and the notion that replacing or even erecting a perimeter pasture fence requires a use permit. Raising and grazing cattle is part of agriculture. Without proper perimeter fencing, it is hard to contain cattle and other grazing livestock from roads and potential animal and human safety hazards. So, where is the issue? Again, it stems from folks with their own agenda and special interests working their internal angle to get what they want. In this case, it was to gain access to the ocean by creating a trail through another’s private property. Based on the landowners’ appeals, the Sonoma County Planning Department staff performed a full review and concluded that the violations cited by Permit Sonoma staff were erroneous; therefore, said notices are rescinded. However, the issue of special interests among some county staff continues to be a concern. There are current proposals by staff to change zoning districts from agriculturally conducive zones to timberland production zones to create the restrictions they are looking for that will break down the barriers that keep them from getting what they want. In this case, the landowners only learned of the proposed rezoning because of the most recent process to appeal the notice of violations. The lack of notification to landowners that are affected by proposed county ordinance changes is highly troublesome and needs to be addressed and remedied for all the right and rational reasons.
Our mission is to represent, protect and advance the social, economic, and educational interests of the farmers and ranchers of Sonoma County.
Our vision is to work toward solutions to problems that are unique to farmers and ranchers and the rural community through being proactive and implementing organized action to benefit those engaged in the various branches of agriculture. We will work for the improvement of conditions surrounding rural life and for the cultivation of such sentiments and ideals that promote neighborliness, citizenship, and community. We will work to communicate with all to provide information and education that fosters better understanding of the opportunities and challenges of delivering safe, nutritious, and affordable food.
We have a big year ahead of us as the County of Sonoma embarks upon updating its General Plan, not to mention staying in front of and being notified of the various proposed changes set forth by county staff. This is a tremendous undertaking considering the work we need to do to educate and be heard. It will take all of us to do our part to ensure that agriculture is well-represented in all the discussions. It has been mentioned so many times that Sonoma County is one of few in the state whose county seal has “agriculture” on it- and it is listed first! Sonoma County Farm Bureau is dedicated to advocating for you, the farmer, the rancher, and the rural landowner. We won’t falter from our mission or vision, and we sure as heck won’t be jumping on any spaceships that direct us otherwise.