There are multiple factors colliding in Oceanside right now. A development proposal for South Morro Hills currently agriculturally zoned called North River Farms was proposed without prior engagement with the locals. The city and citizens of Oceanside have been collaborating on an agritourism master vision plan for years now called the Oceanside AgriVision that does not align with this development. And, triggered by the development project’s threat, concerned and sincere citizens launched Oceanside’s SOAR initiative which has made it to the ballot-box for November 2018. Adding to the complexity, cannabis cultivation for mixed light use has been approved for the area.
We believe that Oceanside SOAR does restrict farmers and we are concerned it could create the very problem it’s trying to solve, especially in the current climate. Rather than supporting farmers to flow flexibly in response to the current climate, SOAR restricts them to continue farming under the current zoning and very difficult circumstances. And, SOAR would require landowners to get approval from the people of Oceanside through a citywide election to make necessary changes to general use and designation. And SOAR would require this while intentionally devaluing their land. These 2 factors alone threaten farming.
Part of the SOAR strategy is to intentionally keep farmland values low. They see this as helping farmers by making it affordable to enter farming by creating a low barrier of entry in terms of affordability of the land. Contrary to this intended outcome, this actually significantly threatens profitability. Why? Because operating loans are required to farm and loans are based on land values. So, devaluation of the land means devaluation of the loans which decreases the amount of money accessible for sustaining farming operation – and remember this is happening in a climate where operating costs are increasing explosively impacted by variables that farmers have no control over such as water and labor costs. This is why this measure has been referred to as a “land grab” as it’s intentionally decreasing land value which is taking value from the farmer.
Also of note, simultaneously, part of SOAR’s strategy is to increase urban land values which would impact the land adjacent to the farmland into the urban center. In actuality, this artificially inflates property values and cost of living near the farmland where farm employees would need to live in order to maintain a reasonable commute to get to their jobs as well as into the urban center of Oceanside. What this means is property values will be artificially deflated for farmland threatening farming operation, their employees and farming families while artificially inflating property values in other areas making it less affordable for most to live in Oceanside and forcing greater wealth disparity. How is this good for farming? We think it’s not. Click here to read an article about this and how it’s applied in Ventura County.
If farming cannot stay profitable, which requires flexibility, operating loans and workers, commercial farmers could be forced to seek options other than farming for profitability and sustainability. This pushes farmers directly into relationship with developers – hence fueling the storm. And, since the land is privately owned, landowners do have the right to sell their land. Therefore, rather than supporting farming, saving land and supporting the Oceanside AgriVision which is what this farming family wants, SOAR could have the opposite impact benefiting the developers and the wealthy the most.
Keep in mind one of the other key local factors contributing to the storm is that cannabis cultivation for mixed light use has been approved for Oceanside. Cannabis cultivation is predicted to radically increase land values making it extremely desirable for landowners to sell. If SOAR passes with cannabis cultivation already having passed and without a clearly agreed upon coordinated master plan for the area in place to us feels like the perfect storm that could push farmers to say, “enough! Farming here’s difficult enough. We’re getting out.” Again, this pushes farmers directly into relationship with developers not in a balanced way but in an urgent way. However, Cannabis is also a crop – meaning, it will allow farmers to keep farming.
All of the above being true, SOAR came into being to stop the proposed development from happening along the rich and sacred San Luis Rey River land. And, if this development proceeds as planned, it will pave over paradise – and once that happens, the land is gone. This issue is extremely complex… and though SOAR is bad for especially large commercial farmers, there is a greater good to consider …