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Agricultural ombudsman streamlines process for farmers and ranchers

The Issue

The Marin County Board of Supervisors recognized the need for an agricultural consultant to enhance the economic development of local farms and ranches. A void existed between farmers and ranchers who needed help, and the lengthy and sometimes confusing processes they needed to negotiate at the county in order to improve and optimize their operations.

What Has ANR Done?

Working together, Marin County and UC Cooperative Extension staff developed the position of an agricultural ombudsman. This is a pioneering effort, as there were no such positions in Northern California. The agricultural ombudsman trained county staff in such areas as water supply, water quality and stream protection, use of agricultural easements, product diversification and support systems. She organized face-to-face visits for county staff with producers, including field trips to dairies, farms and ranches. The staff gained a better understanding of the needs and constraints of agricultural producers. Equally important, the agricultural ombudsman helped farmers and ranchers understand the county permitting process and overcome permitting glitches. She has linked farmers and ranchers with appropriate county staff. The program has been so successful that several neighboring counties are currently using it as a model in developing their own versions.

The Payoff

UCCE streamlines process for farmers and ranchers

Twenty-five county staff from the Community Development Agency and Department of Public Works have participated in training and education on county planning and policy development related to agriculture. More than 50 agricultural producers have used the ag ombudsman’s assistance with business development and guidance through the county permitting process. Participating county staff and ag producers indicated in an exit survey that the ag ombudsman program was “very useful." The ag ombudsman and her team developed handouts on permitting commercial egg production, cheese plants, organic certification and other diversification projects. The information was posted on the Grown in Marin website at http://growninmarin.org under resources for farmers.

Clientele Testimonial

“Now that I understand the urgency and financial constraints of agricultural producers, I’m able to advise them of the most effective/expeditious way to get them through the process.” – county staffer after ag ombudsman training


Ellie Rilla, (415) 499-4204, erilla@ucdavis.edu