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Carmichael Times

Ag Pass Program to Assist Farmers During Disasters

Dec 14, 2023 09:52AM ● By Sacramento County News Release

January flood waters caused millions of dollars in damage to area ag producers. Photo courtesy of Sacramento County

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, CA (MPG) - Last winter’s floods took a devastating toll on the Sacramento area’s agricultural industry. More than $38 million in losses were reported by area farms. That loss of revenue included damaged crops, dead livestock, and damaged infrastructure.

When the flooding struck, commercial agricultural producers were forced to evacuate. In many cases, animals and equipment that couldn’t be loaded onto trailers and moved were left behind, while crops were also left unprotected.  Once out of the area, farmers were not allowed back in until the water receded.  There wasn't a system in place to show law enforcement who belonged and who didn't during the crisis.

The Sacramento County Department of Agriculture recognized this issue that farmers and ranchers faced by leaving, and with the assistance of the County Office of Emergency Services, have developed a program to assist the local ag industry with a way to allow them back in to protect their farms and livestock during a disaster.

The Board of Supervisors has approved the County’s first Ag Pass Program. Ag Pass will be activated during a declared disaster that allows, when safe, the ability for coordinated re-entry of commercial agricultural producers to an evacuated area through collaborative pre-incident planning, coordination, and implementation.

The County held a series of community meetings to discuss how to create the new program to allow qualified agriculture and livestock producers safe passage to their properties. The Ag Pass Program provides guidance and direction for local governments and non-governmental organizations on how to safely allow accredited agricultural workers back onto their property to assess their businesses. To become part of the Ag Pass Program, commercial agricultural producers will need to register through the Sacramento County Department of Agriculture, Weights, and Measures.

Under the program, County accredited members will be limited to performing only those functions and tasks that have been determined essential for the support of commercial operations to lessen the impacts of economic loss or to provide auxiliary support to peace officers and emergency personnel in locating water sources and access routes.

The Ag Pass coverage is limited to registered commercial agricultural operations under the Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office. An initial application for the Ag Pass will require Primary Pass holders to outline all critical tasks and require an approximate number of personnel. 

“This pass does not give any special privileges or authorization to disregard the direction of public safety officials or force any employees, laborers, farmhands, or members of the public, regardless of their immigration status, to disregard the orders of any public safety official,” said Chris Flores, Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner.

Agricultural producers are encouraged to contact the County Department of Agriculture to learn more about this new program. Applicants must take training from the County before an Ag Pass is issued. All passes must be renewed annually.

Training classes are expected to begin in early 2024.