Memo to California County Supervisors
DATE: FEBRUARY 14, 2012
TO: ALL CALIFORNIA COUNTY SUPERVISORS
FROM: JOHN R. GAMPER AND JACK RICE, ESQ.
SUBJECT: OFFER OF LEGAL ASSISTANCE AND DOCUMENTS
Protecting our state's farmland is a top priority of the California Farm Bureau Federation, and for generations the Williamson Act has helped to conserve our agricultural resources and protect our nation's food security. The enactment of SB 618 (Chapter 596, Statutes of 2011) on January 1, 2012, strengthens this farmland protection program by providing a significant incentive to encourage solar photovoltaic developers to locate their energy facilities on the least productive soils or land that is physically impaired.
In an effort to assist counties in the implementation of this important change in law, Farm Bureau's Governmental Affairs and Legal Services divisions have drafted a sample Solar-Use Easement Agreement and Model Resolution. These documents, along with a Summary Explanation of the new law, an implementation Checklist and a list of Frequently Asked Questions, are intended to serve as the legal foundation for your county's participation in this important new program.
By creating an alternative method for exiting a Williamson Act contract with the simultaneous creation of a Solar-Use Easement Agreement on marginally productive or physically impaired land, the Legislature sought to protect the integrity of the Williamson Act as well as our most productive agricultural land from conversion to utility-scale electrical power generation facilities. Many rural California counties are experiencing the equivalent of a 21st century land rush, as utility companies and independent solar developers seek entitlements to site solar PV projects, many of which are proposed on our most productive soils. As the global population grows relentlessly, protecting our food supply must become a much higher priority. SB 618 was intended to ensure that a short-term focus on renewable energy objectives would not come at the unnecessary expense of farmland needed to sustain a reliable food supply.
We hope your county will seriously consider the consequences of allowing prime farmland to be converted to utility-scale solar development when there are hundreds of thousands of acres of salt-impacted or drainage-impaired land that are available and suitable for this industrial land use.
It is our hope that the linked documents will assist you and your staff in implementing the new law in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
[The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Dave Kranz, CFBF Communications and News Division Manager; Nancy McDonough, CFBF General Counsel; Carl Borden, CFBF Associate Counsel; Kari Fisher, CFBF Associate Counsel; Claudia Stuart, Butte County Williamson Act Principal Planner; and Kate Kelly, Principal, Kelly Group. Their comments and editorial changes greatly improved our suggested documents to assist in the implementation of SB 618.]