Down on the Farm
California’s budget crisis could wind up spurring sprawl. With the state tens of billions of dollars in the red, Gov. Gray Davis (D) is hoping to cut the $39 million per year that the state spends on the Williamson Act, which lets farmers pay lower taxes as long as they pledge to keep their land out of the hands of developers. More than 15 million prime agricultural acres are currently covered by the act, which many land-use experts say has been key to curbing sprawl in farming regions. “The concern is, without the Williamson Act, you’ll see more sprawling suburban development,” said Dan Fahey of the Greenbelt Alliance, a Bay Area environmental group. “That means more traffic, more air quality problems, and all the things open spaces help cure.” A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is teaming up with farmers, environmentalists, and county officials to fight Davis’s proposal.