Santa Clara County Continues Agricultural Preservation Work

farmland in Coyote Valley
Farmland in Coyote Valley

On Tuesday, April 19, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors decided to continue making progress on financial incentives protecting Coyote Valley’s farmland and open space. We asked the Supervisors to keep the process moving forward, and with over 300 people writing in their support, the Supervisors did just that.

County staff brought four different options to the Supervisors for preliminary consideration:

  • Climate Resilience Credits: Paying landowners to protect the environment on their properties. Planning for this potential program is being led by a team of outside experts, so the Supervisors will consider this in the future, when more information becomes available.
  • Agricultural Conservation Easements (ACE): An ACE is a legally recorded deed restriction that is placed on a specific property used for agricultural production. Essentially, the County would pay landowners to change the deed to the land, restricting the land to agriculturally related uses only. Crucially, the County intends to maximize the easements’ value through a “Buy-Protect-Sell” process. It will buy farmland from willing sellers, create a maximally protective ACE for the property, and then sell the property to farmers while retaining the easement. This solves the problem of inadequate easements that allow too much development.
  • Agricultural Resilience Incentives: A series of grants that makes agriculture more environmentally friendly, and could be expanded to other lands in rural areas like golf courses.
  • Tax Incentives: Reducing property taxes for properties where the owner contractually agrees to limit development for a period of time, typically 15 years.

All of these options sound promising, especially with increased state and federal funding now making them possible.

The Supervisors agreed to move all options forward, although they may limit options later when financial costs are better understood. They expanded the agricultural conservation easement possibility to also include lands outside of Coyote Valley, and brought up the possibility that High Speed Rail, if it moves forward, could pay for protection in Coyote Valley.

We are happy to see this move forward, and thanked County staff for their hard work that made it possible, while emphasizing that while we are glad the County is considering options, it is also important for the County to allocate funding to ensure it can act on the options it chooses. That decision will occur later, and we will continue to advocate for the funding when the next opportunity arises.

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