From the Fresno Bee:
Fresno County supervisors agreed Tuesday to preserve a longtime tax benefit for farmers, even as the benefit is costing the county millions in lost revenue.
The state's 47-year-old Williamson Act, which provides property tax breaks for landowners who commit to keeping their land in agriculture, has been under scrutiny ever since state reimbursement for the program dried up.
But amid heavy lobbying from the Valley's powerful ag industry, the county Board of Supervisors narrowly voted to continue the tax-relief program and absorb the losses.
The 2-2 vote not to touch the Williamson Act pitted two rural supervisors, who were not in favor of changes, against two members from the county's urban core.
The decision was cheered by the farm community, many of whom turned out for Tuesday's hearing in downtown Fresno to deliver personal accounts of how they couldn't afford a tax hike. ...
The Williamson Act was passed by the Legislature in 1965 as a way to provide incentive for farmland conservation.
Because the state no longer provides reimbursement for the program, counties have the option of partially recouping losses by reducing tax breaks for farmers by 10% -- in exchange for shorter conservation commitments from farmers.