Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced last night that he has signed Assemblyman Nielsen's (R-Gerber) Assembly Bill 2530 into law. The bill, intended to save the Williamson Act, will go into effect starting January 1, 2011. The Williamson Act is a partnership between landowners, counties, and the state. Landowners agree to forego the possibility of developing their land in return for lower property taxes while the counties agree to give up a portion of their property tax revenue in return for the advantages of keeping rural land in agricultural production.
"I am pleased that the Governor has signed AB 2530," commented Assemblyman Nielsen. "Agriculture is the foundation of our state, and it is imperative that we do everything in our power to protect it. This bill will allow the Williamson Act to move forward, by preserving land and protecting our food supply."
"We commend Governor Schwarzenegger for lending his support and signature to this critical legislation to protect farmland and open space," stated Paul Wenger, President of the California Farm Bureau. "Assemblyman Nielsen worked extremely hard with farmers and ranchers, representatives of county governments and across party lines in the Legislature, to craft this solution to Williamson Act funding challenges. The Legislature recognized the importance of this invaluable program by passing AB 2530 unanimously, and Farm Bureau greatly appreciates the governor's signature on the bill. The Williamson Act has successfully protected more than 16 million acres of productive farm and ranch land, helping to assure supplies of local, affordable food and farm products for California consumers. As a farmer with land in the Williamson Act program, I give my personal thanks to Assemblyman Nielsen and Governor Schwarzenegger."
"The Williamson Act is a vital program that has protected over 64,000 acres of farmland in Sutter County. This legislation helps to ensure the continued viability of one of the largest sectors in the California economy," stated Sutter County Supervisor James Gallagher. "This new law will give counties a chance to voluntarily implement new land preservation contracts, and save the Williamson Act. I applaud Assemblyman Nielsen for working hard on behalf of farmers throughout California."
AB 2530 would allow counties to voluntarily implement new contracts that are ten percent shorter in return for a ten percent reduction in the landowner's property tax relief. The adoption of the new shorter contracts would require a majority vote of the board of supervisors and would only be allowed in years when counties receive replacement of less than one-half of their foregone general fund property tax revenue from the program.