County Supervisors gave the green light for a new SLO County Ag Pass Program last week. The program allows agricultural producers to undergo training and potentially be allowed access to their farms and ranches during a wildfire or other natural disaster.
SLO County developed a local Ag Pass program in 2021, but the state legislature created new standards for county ag pass programs with passage of AB-1103 later that year. In coming months, the SLO County Agriculture Commissioner’s office will be announcing training dates and application details for the new Ag Pass Program.
SLO County Fire Department has developed an approximately 4-hour curriculum that will provide a primer on basic fire behavior, communications during disaster, and incident command structure (ICS). Ag Pass authorization cards will be valid for two years. Additionally, shorter, “refresher” training will be made available online at Ag Pass card renewal time.
Who is eligible for an Ag Pass?
For the initial program rollout, no more than three (3) individuals from any agricultural operation (not each individual site of the operation) will be eligible to obtain an Ag Pass. The purpose of the Ag Pass is to potentially allow an agriculturalist access to his or her farm or ranch for limited emergency response activities to protect or care for agricultural assets only. It is not a pathway that allows for normal agricultural operations or activities (i.e. harvesting, packing, planting, etc.).
The Ag Pass will only be available to agriculturalists who meet the following criteria:
- Property must be located in the State Responsibility Areas (SRA) of San Luis Obispo County (see the map here.) Because properties in the Wildland Urban Interface are subject to rapid change during wildfires or similar disasters, Ag Passes are only appropriate in the SRA.
- The operation must be: a. A commercial agricultural enterprise; or b. Property used for conducting agricultural research or instruction by an educational institution.
- Property must be zoned agricultural and a minimum of 40-acres in size.
- The Applicant is key personnel of the operation that has a working knowledge of the agricultural property, including access to irrigation systems, farm equipment, and other essential infrastructure.
- The Applicant and employer (if different than the Applicant) must sign a waiver and release.
An Ag Pass eligibility committee (“Committee”) organized by the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office will be responsible for confirming eligibility based on the above criteria. The Committee will be composed of representatives from the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, County Fire, Sherriff’s Office, Cattlemen’s
Association, Farm Bureau, Fire Safe Council and UC Cooperative Extension.
More details can be found in the Staff Report here. A copy of the resolution can be found here.