Eighteen months after its coming out party, the Santa Barbara County Ag Futures Alliance released its first major collaborative document last week: a 14-page exploration of what they would like to see an official County Buffer policy look like. A locally unprecedented union of agricultural and environmental power brokers—two factions with a long history of drawing battle lines instead of breaking bread—the Alliance has been putting in long hours exploring the various realities of what happens when ag land shares a property line with development projects. Addressing areas of concern for both farmers/ranchers and developers/residents, the draft policy touches on things like noise and nighttime lighting, dust, trespassing, pesticide use, and erosion, while establishing a basic outline of how big a buffer zone should be established based upon the specific types of agriculture and development going on.
In short, the document represents the compromise between a group of various stakeholders (who, it should be noted, come from bigger groups like the Environmental Defense Center, the Central Coast Wine Growers, and Mission Labor, but who volunteer on the Alliance purely as individuals) before the official buffer zone policy decision-making process gets underway. “Basically, this is a tool we are giving to Planning and Development for them to use as they develop their buffer policy for the county,” summed up Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau Executive Director and founding Alliance member Teri Bontrager. “This is really just the first step in a long process.”