As a lifelong Marshall resident, an organic dairy farmer and the founder and C.E.O. of Straus Family Creamery, I feel that we as a farming community are at a crisis point due to the April 24 California Coastal Commission proposal that will undermine one of Marin’s most important agricultural areas. Since my teens, I have been an active environmentalist and a farmer, and have been involved in community organizations. My family has worked for many decades to help create a common vision of a viable rural community and sustainable family farming in Marin. After nine long years of negotiations, even in the face of 11th-hour revisions by coastal commission staff, community members and farmers have repeatedly stepped up in good faith to offer numerous compromises. Now we have reached an impasse. I have lost trust in the coastal commission as a community partner.
It is now clear that county elected officials must intercede, taking back control of this process for the good of our community. Agreements on the Local Coastal Program, which sets the rules for development in the coastal zone and has direct impact on my farming community, have been consistently dismissed, ignored or subverted by the commission. Current proposals by the commission would impose arbitrary, burdensome, cookie-cutter regulations, and are designed to threaten agriculture and the communities it supports. If adopted, this program would be the demise of coastal-zone agriculture in Marin.
Marin County elected officials have for many decades helped sustain agricultural communities and have worked together with community members to develop relevant and forward-looking plans. Unlike county officials, coastal commissioners are appointed, not elected, and their staff is not accountable to the public. The proposal to require coastal permits for most agricultural activities and most home repairs effectively removes regulatory authority from effective, responsive locally elected officials. For example, county officials rely on the Marin County Agricultural Commissioner, who has certified most of the 46,000 organic acres in Marin, has knowledge and experience in farming practice and educates the Board of Supervisors and the public on farming’s economic and environmental impacts.
Longtime collaboration between community members and county officials has created a vital organic farming community in Marin that is a model to the nation. I urge the Board of Supervisors to retain its authority and continue to actively oversee the L.C.P. It’s time for county officials to stand with our rural coastal communities and prevent the demise of our coastal farms and communities.
Albert Straus is the founder and C.E.O. of Straus Family Creamery. He lives in Marshall.