Monday, January 07, 2008

Supervisors To Peruse Agricultural Study

Supervisors To Peruse Agricultural Study
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | January 05, 2008 13:23

FAIRFIELD - Protecting the Dixon Ridge and Winters farming regions from substantial development and removing regulatory obstacles are among the recommendations in a Solano County agricultural study.

County supervisors in March 2006 commissioned the UC Agricultural Issues Center to conduct the $102,000 study, which comes in four parts. Now they are ready to hear the results.

'The county has some really hard decisions to make about agriculture and agricultural land use in the future,' said Kurt Richter, who spearheaded the study along with Alvin Sokolow.

Supervisors are scheduled to discuss the recommendations at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the county Government Center, 675 Texas St.

A key idea in the study is ensuring that the county has enough information when making land-use decisions affecting farming, Richter said. Counties tend to make land-use decisions on a parcel basis, perhaps removing 40 acres from production here and there.

'They piecemeal it out slowly,' Richter said. 'All of a sudden, there's not enough agriculture to support a processing center.'

Among the things Solano County can do is have policies geared toward its nine diverse agricultural regions, bring more agricultural-related expertise to county government and take a more proactive approach to farming issues, the study recommends.

Richter helped add to the information the county can use when making decisions affecting agriculture. He and others drove all over the county to find out what types of farming are being done on some 7,500 fields.

The study singles out the Dixon Ridge and Winters farming regions for protection. Dixon Ridge near Vacaville and Dixon is a fertile area with large farms growing such crops as tomatoes and alfalfa. Winters is known for its walnuts.

But protecting the Dixon Ridge area from rural residential and urban development could prove challenging. The area has Interstate 80 cutting through it, making it an attractive place for new homes, industries and businesses.

Other recommendations look to the financial side of farming.

Farmers in places such as Suisun Valley talk of wanting to do more 'value-added' enterprises, such as produce stands, processing facilities and businesses that attract tourists. But they see regulatory obstacles.

The report recommends the county do a detailed study of its regulations and how it could ease the burdens of state and federal requirements. It also recommends the county appoint farmers to a value-added agricultural committee to provide advice.

Richter has a recommendation for farmers. They need to become more involved in county decisions and have a bigger voice, he said.

And residents can help as well, he said.

'Solano County residents need to support with their dollars locally grown food,' Richter said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646, Ext. 232, or at

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