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SECTION II:  POTENTIAL STRATEGIES
Group D: STRATEGIES THAT SUPPORT AN AGRICULTURAL ECONOMY

Strategy D5: Assist farmers and landowners in working with governmental agencies
Strategy D5.2:  Farmbudsman - Help farmers and landowners navigate regulatory requirements for farm activities.

DESCRIPTION

There are multiple local, State and Federal permitting processes and regulations that affect the way that farmers do business. It can be difficult for farmers to navigate the various levels of regulations or simply to understand all that exist from water quality, to environmental health, to business regulations. An agricultural ombudsman or farmbudsman program can assist farmers, ranchers, and agriculture-related businesses with various permitting processes, including assistance with agricultural permitting, standards and reporting as required by regulatory agencies. An ombudsman could help to facilitate and expedite the development and implementation of agricultural projects.

RELATED PROGRAMS AND POLICIES

The idea of an agricultural ombudsman program was first discussed locally prior to 2008. Both Solano and Yolo counties' General Plans incorporate the concept of the ombudsman position. Solano County was the first to develop the concept into a real position with the Farm Assistance, Revitalization, and Marketing Coordinator that existed in the county from 2008-2009. In November 2011, the Solano and Yolo Counties Joint Economic Summit identified an Ombudsman Program as an "opportunity to enhance the value of agriculture within the two counties and decrease actual and perceived regulatory obstacles on agriculture-related businesses seeking to expand, enhance, and/or maintain their operations." Working with the Small Business Development Center at Solano College, Yolo and Solano counties released a request for qualifications for consultant services for the Farmbudsman Program. A consultant was selected in mid-2013.

Sonoma and Marin counties also have agricultural ombudsman programs managed by Agriculture and Natural Resources – Cooperative Extension at the University of California. San Mateo County is in the process of starting an ombudsman program, as well.

ISSUES

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta encompasses parts of five counties, however, the focus of a Delta-specific ombudsman could be reduced to three counties by collaborating with the Yolo and Solano Farmbudsman. In addition to geographic logistics, a few other issues exist:

  • Funding – start-up and on-going. Yolo and Solano counties both contribute $27,000 per year to the part-time position.
  • Location and office space. The Delta is large. Ideally the position would be housed somewhere in the middle. Funding and space availability, however, may make a less central location more appropriate.
  • Consensus. With five counties and multiple agencies already working in the Delta, consensus on the position's focus, scope, location, etc., could be challenging.

If you would like to provide feedback on this strategy, please click the following link: Agricultural Stewardship Strategy Feedback Form

ALS Workgroup: ALS Framework and Strategies: Section II:  Strategy D5.2 Farmbudsman: 102913