October 15, 2002
I recently had the opportunity to visit a variety of agriculture sites in the Carson Valley. I was amazed and intrigued with the amount of ingenuity our ranch and land owners use to deal with regulations, water rights, the rising cost of production and a mostly static price of product.
A good majority of the families represented by these ranchers are the families that defined the character of the Carson Valley and gave us a rich and historic place to live. Our Valley benefits from their presence and at times does little to help them succeed.
What I found most unfortunate was the losing plight of the small private ranch. As costs for equipment and labor rise they are already at maximum production and at times may struggle to exceed daily costs. Many aspects of agriculture have become high tech and although production costs may ultimately be reduced start up investments are often out of reach.
Our ranchers have not been left behind. Some have diversified and all try to use the best technology available to maximize the use of available water, increase cattle and dairy stock, improve soil fertilization techniques and to in fact use their land in the most efficient way possible.
These are people who are more educated in their particular field than most people know. They are people who understand business and know the land.
They should be the example to us all, hard work and a love of what they do. Whether it was at the hay farms, cattle ranches, onion fields, compost farms or dairy farms I was impressed with all I met.
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After I completed my day and I reflected on my recently obtained knowledge it occurred to me that on election day I could possibly interfere with these good people’s right to decide their own destiny. I know that many people refer to the jobs that might be lost along with declining revenue for our builders if the proposed Sustainable Growth Initiative is passed. I understand those arguments and I agree that 280 permits annually seems far too limited for a county the size of Douglas. But I also believe we need to think about the effect the passage of this initiative will have on the small rancher. With the possibility that the production ranches in the Carson Valley at some time in the future may have to throw in the towel, the voters of the Valley would be rewarding these good people with limited rights in splitting or developing their property. I think that is a decision that is best left to property rights and not the new residents of Douglas County, who may truly desire the power of the TRPA.
I would not want the terms of the use of the land my family founded and worked dictated by the competitiveness of obtaining a truly limited amount of permits. I trust the longtime residents of the Carson Valley.
I believe they have a good understanding of why people come here and they will not ruin it for the rest of us. Let’s not insult them for their hard work and dedication by imposing our will and limiting their options. Let’s negotiate our will for the preservation of open space by helping our local agriculture businesses prosper.