At our last Board of Supervisors meeting, I brought forth an item directing County staff to explore the creation of an "Agriculture Pass". An Ag Pass can provide limited access during a wildfire or emergency to restricted areas in order to care for agriculture assets such as feeding animals, transporting livestock, and irrigating valuable crops.
This Board letter comes from the stories I’ve heard from community members during emergencies. Many ranchers and farmers have ignored evacuation orders, knowing that once they leave, they may not be able to return to their property to care for their animals and crops. Others have been evacuated only to eventually make the difficult choice to bypass roadblocks to access their farm or ranch, risking their safety and a misdemeanor charge to ensure the welfare of their animals.
This AG pass would not be an automatic entry back into an emergency area, as it will be up to emergency personnel, but it could encourage more to evacuate knowing they could have return access their property when it's safe. Farmers and ranchers would undergo training and certification for how to navigate fire areas safely.
Several California counties have already created a county-based Ag Pass program and have had great success. The Ag Pass cards are an opportunity to identify vetted commercial farm and ranch owner-operators and their employees to firefighting personnel, California Highway Patrol officers, Sheriff deputies, other law enforcement officers, and emergency personnel during an emergency.
I’m pleased to say that the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Board letter and will now explore the feasibility of developing an Ag Pass program. County staff will now work with stakeholders and report back in 180 days with a plan to implement this program, if feasible. I will keep you updated!