Executive Address – September 2012

We Must be Sittin’ on a Gold Mine

By 1849, the California Gold Rush was in full swing; leading to the creation of the California constitution –a governor and a legislature, and a major role in becoming a state in 1850 as part of the Great Compromise of 1850.  The state was young and had a fresh slate as when the world was new. Then property rights got involved, where valuable resources under heavy competition tend to makes things pretty ugly.  By hook or by crook, people took, squatted, stole, and claimed valuable territories for their own. These squatting activities eventually lead to numerous, and still presently operating farming homesteads (my family home is one of them).  The explosion of people and of economy in California eventually required the construction of a more efficient means of travel to move people from one side of the country to the other and the Transcontinental Railroad was born.  Many, many properties were acquired by the railroad for the betterment of the public good and then a hundred years later, by the government when the railroad went bankrupt.

Since arriving in Madera County almost a year ago –I’ve born witness to some unique government overbearance with respect to private property rights.  The concept of the government acquiring property for the use of society –or the greater good –is not a new one, but I must admit that I had not realized this activity was so vigorously alive and well.  What’s worse, I note that our community dynamic is one of a protectionist society, so the irony of the greater good appears to be for everyone other than the residents of Madera County.

Some of the bigger examples of these land grabs include the high speed rail project –whose latest estimates include acquiring over 2,500 acres of property in Madera County ALONE (1,100 of that is prime farm land), and the California Foothills Legacy Area designations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service –who, until recent pushback by the County of Madera and the Madera County Cattlemen’s Association, had proposed to encumber over 200,000 acres for a government-owned easement program.  Visions of the government owning vast amounts of land–whether it’s the dysfunctional State run California High Speed Rail Authority, or the out of order Federal government, (or worse yet, taking up squatting rights as your neighbor) –are truly horrifying.  In fact, the Government, state or otherwise, even proffering to take this much property in California hasn’t happened since the gold rush days.  Which begs the question –are we sitting on gold mine here in Madera County?

By 1850, most of the easily accessible gold had been collected, and attention turned to extracting gold from more difficult locations. Faced with gold increasingly difficult to retrieve, Americans began to drive out foreigners to get at the most accessible gold that remained. The new California State Legislature passed a foreign miners tax of twenty dollars per month ($560 per month as of 2012) per household. 

Perhaps Madera County should take a lesson from history and begin assessing its own “foreign miners” tax.  Much like the Bay area requires a toll for passing over their bridges –the same logic could apply to government interlopers attempting to squire a squat in our County.  If we are to continue to endure all the consequences of outer urbanization pressure and have these projects forced on us –yet reap few to no benefits from these government acquisitions, a different –far less acquiescent approach should be taken.  Since we’re evidently sitting on a gold mine we should certainly charge people who seek to pilfer the precious gold from it.

The Farm Bureau, in additional to traditional agricultural advocacy –is seeking to create a barrier between these types of government overbearances and the innocent land owners they affect.  At a minimum, it is our role to take these agencies to task on their gross misinterpretations of the law and inexplicable logic regarding the greater good.  In serving our members we encounter multiple governmental agencies and entities –including the bureaucrats who run them, often times willingly and knowingly engaging in practices that are not within the confines of their operating statutes or are outside the confines of the laws which govern them.  Fortunately however, all these government entities are subject to oversight in some manner.  But unless these egregious operating practices are put on display to the proper oversight agencies or committees, the status quo will continue without question –just with lots of complaints.  So unless we want to see all the gold gone in Madera County, our job continues to be one of diligence and of vigorous and pensive fight.

Anja K. Raudabaugh
Executive Director