Livable Communities Newsletter
Vol. 10, No. 39
August 2016
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Welcome to Our Summer 2016 Livable Communities Newsletter! 
This edition is dedicated to the subject of agriculture and the place it has in county land use planning efforts.  We start with a short article by Farm Bureau CEO John Krist highlighting major uncertainties for the future of agriculture in Ventura County.  Following this we present articles by the leaders of SOAR and Sustain VC summarizing the differences between the two November ballot measures offered to Ventura County voters to prevent sprawl and preserve open space and farm land.  The articles are short but compelling, and we urge all to click through to complete the reading of each article.  The Ventura County Civic Alliance is a neutral convener attempting to clarify choices and the resulting implications, and is not advocating for any particular position.  We hope that you will find these pieces interesting and informative.  Let us know what you think by contacting us at
Stacy Roscoe 

Agricultural uncertainty complicates land-use planning

by John Krist
Since 2013, strawberry acreage in Ventura County has declined 34 percent,  from 13,555 acres in 2013 to 9,004 in 2016, according to the  California Strawberry Commission.

The relatively swift and substantial change in acreage devoted to the county's highest-grossing crop is the result of a variety of factors: thinning profit margins due to increasing labor, land and water costs; a shift of production north to Santa Maria and south to Baja as growers seek cheaper land and more reliable water; depressed prices because overplanting upset the balance between supply and demand.
Change of this sort is nothing new. The history of Ventura County agriculture is a 150-year story of adaptation to evolving circumstances. But today, Ventura County agriculture faces more sources of profound uncertainty - the kind that can trigger changes in fundamental structural elements of the industry-than at any other time in recent memory. In such an environment, it is risky to assume that what agriculture here looks like today tells us much of anything about what it will look like tomorrow, a year from now or two decades from now.

The SOAR Initiative: Measure C

There are two measures on the November ballot dealing with SOAR, the law that protects Ventura County from urban sprawl.
Measure C was written and is funded by the supporters of SOAR, a grassroots coalition that is working to extend SOAR and preserve open space and farmland in the County.  Measure F was written and is funded by opponents of SOAR, big landholders and wealthy developers who want to weaken our protections.
SOAR has a proven 20-year track record of effectively protecting open space and agricultural land from development and maintaining the local agricultural economy and jobs.  The key to the effectiveness of SOAR is the fact that land zoned for open space and agriculture cannot be rezoned for development without a vote of the people.
The single most important and fundamental difference between SOAR's Measure C and the opponent's Measure F is the degree to which they empower the voters to block urban sprawl projects. 
Measure C requires a vote of the people before virtually all land zoned open
space and
agricultural can be rezoned for development.  This makes it impossible for politicians, developers and special interests to push through a major project that is opposed by the public.

SUSTAIN VC's "Measure F" Keeps Farmers Farming

by Sustain VC
The SUSTAIN VC initiative "Measure F for Farmers" will be on the November 8th ballot this year as an alternative to the countywide SOAR initiative.  It was written by farmers and ranchers starting from a simple idea:  if you want to stop sprawl and protect open space and agricultural land in Ventura County, then agriculture must be economically viable.
The families of the farmers who filed the ballot measure have been farming in Ventura County for a combined 400 years.  With over 400,000 acres of farm and ranch land in the County, including 100,000 acres of irrigated farmland, keeping this land in farming and ranching increases the livability of our communities and is essential to our local quality of life.

Preventing housing tracts and shopping malls from sprawling into farmland is one of many unprecedented challenges that farmers face in 2016.  Measure F maintains the public vote for urban development outside of each city's CURB lines, just like SOAR, protecting both open space and farmland.  But unlike SOAR, Measure F goes further to help "Keep Farmers Farming" in Ventura County.

Why did farmers write Measure F?   In contrast to SOAR, Measure F changes the INTENT of the Ventura County General Plan to support farmers farming the land rather than just preserving the land.

Ventura County farmers are facing unprecedented challenges including drought, international competition and invasive pests.  Major local berry farms have closed recently laying off over 1,000 employees.  Without Measure F, our precious local farmland is in jeopardy of being fallowed, turning vast landscapes from green to brown.