The Agricultural Preserve, though once surrounded by controversy and fear, has proved to be an extremely successful proactive step.
When created, it was not a reaction to something that was already happening, but rather a reaction to what we all knew was going to happen. That ordinance was passed to preserve the rural nature of Napa County and its world-class agricultural and wine industry. Everyone in the industry embraces it today.
The Water Quality and Tree Protection Ordinance, in its most stringent form, is another step in the same direction. Designed to protect our trees, water and bio-diverse environment, it joins the Ag Preserve in protecting agriculture and Napa County’s rural nature. Yet again, it is being received with fear and controversy.
Opponents of the Tree and Water Ordinance argue that stricter measures are an answer to a problem that doesn’t exist. Yet the degradation of the Napa River, like the dying canary in the coal mine, is just one, very real indication of a growing problem.
Climate change is certainly another. With the warmest summers, the rainiest and coldest winters, multiple firestorms, the degradation of Napa River, and increasing silt in our reservoirs how could anyone think we don’t have a problem?
These challengers also say that the ordinance is anti-agriculture, when in actuality, the reverse is true. We farmers must continue to be the staunchest stewards of the land and protectors of the environment that supports it. As our water goes, so goes our vineyards.
These regulations will not result in, “…the end of agriculture in the Napa Valley…nor …the end of our agricultural economy.” Rather, adding protection where we can is the best proactive step currently available to preserve our agriculturally based industry and the rural nature of our environment.
Lastly, I hear concern about the next generation of farmers. To the question, “Where will they farm?” I rhetorically answer, when will enough be enough? At the extreme, if we cleared all of the hills and planted right up to the rivers and streams, would that be enough?
The question, what about the next generation will always apply. Yet at some point, for the greater good, we must put the brakes on.
I applaud the efforts of the Board of Supervisors and the many people who have supported a meaningful process, especially Growers and Vintners for Responsible Ag. They have submitted a science-backed plan that would provide meaningful protection, sustain our agriculture and ensure longterm water quality and quantity.
In addition, if the county keeps steeply sloped land unavailable for development and mitigation, we’d have an ordinance that would truly make a difference.
I have always been proud of the rare camaraderie that has served our industry and community well. It has built the Napa Valley into a world-class wine grapegrowing region, a food mecca and a community that cares about its members.
The time has come for us to protect what we have rather than focusing on having more. The best way to do that is together. We have to care as much, if not more, about our environment as we do about our vineyards and wine. That will bring more prestige to our valley, increased land values and the preservation of this beautifully diverse land.