For Immediate Release
Supervisors to discuss Agricultural Access Verification Card Program at September 19 Special Meeting
SANTA ROSA, CA | September 15, 2023
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is set to consider changes to the county’s Agriculture Access Verification Program during a Special Meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19 beginning at 4 p.m.
Members of the public may attend the meeting in person or virtually. Instructions on how to join the meeting and provide public comment are available by clicking on the Sept. 19 meeting agenda here:
Spanish-language interpretation will be available for those attending the meeting in person as well as those attending via Zoom.
The current Agriculture Access Verification Program has been in place for one year and has received 168 applications from commercial livestock producers and commercial plant agriculture producers. To date, 103 access verification cards have been issued following completion of in-person fire and worker safety training. During a mandatory evacuation, access cards permit operators to transport, shelter, feed, water and administer veterinary care to livestock; irrigate crops; fuel emergency generators or provide auxiliary support to emergency personnel.
Following regional wildfire disasters in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the County invited 43 different stakeholder groups to provide input and held 18 stakeholder meetings to address concerns related to access to agriculture and livestock operations during mandatory evacuation, including the safety of operators and workers.
The County’s Agricultural Access Verification Program maintains that operators are responsible for compliance with state and federal safety regulations, including protective actions that may be required due to changing conditions during a flood, storm, wildfire, or other disaster. Harvesting or sowing crops, food processing, and facility repairs are not considered eligible activities as part of the program.
In 2022, the Board of Supervisors established an Ad Hoc Committee to support a collaborative policy development process and to ensure that state law AB 1103, which was passed in 2021 and authorizes counties to establish an evacuation zone access program, is implemented in a way that supports the needs of local workers and operators.
The committee included Supervisors Lynda Hopkins and Chris Coursey and staff representatives from Emergency Management, Agriculture/Weights & Measures, Sheriff’s Office, Office of Equity and the University of California Cooperative Extension.
The Board of Supervisors has adopted rules of procedures which include a commitment to civility. To assure civility in its public meetings, the public is encouraged to engage in respectful dialog that supports freedom of speech and values diversity of opinion. Board Members, staff and members of the public are expected to establish and maintain a cordial and respectful atmosphere during discussions; and foster meaningful dialogue free of personal attacks. Those who violate these standards will be asked to end their comments or, if online, will be muted.