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Fewer choices, higher prices are headed your way unless Prop. 15 is defeated

Grocery bills will get more expensive, the cost of living will rise, ranchers will go out of business and our state’s economic recovery will move at a glacial pace.

These would be just some of Proposition 15’s devastating impacts. As a rancher, I urge California voters to reject Prop 15 in November.

Otherwise, every Californian will pay for the largest property tax increase in California history, even as we deal with COVID-19 and an unprecedented economic crisis.

Ranches in California are family businesses. Ranches across the state are currently tended by fifth- or sixth-generation ranchers carrying on the family tradition of providing responsibly-raised, nutritious beef to California consumers.

But if Proposition 15 passes, many of those ranching operations will be shuttered, depriving would-be sixth- or seventh-generation ranchers from carrying on the family legacy.

Ranchers will be among the hardest-hit of Prop 15’s many victims. The ballot measure has a staggering price tag of $11.5 billion in property tax increases every year, repealing Proposition 13’s four-plus decades of protections that have provided farmers and ranchers with economic certainty and stability.

Prop. 15 will devastate farmers and ranchers by increasing property taxes on agricultural buildings and improvements, including basically everything that is required to move food from farm to fork. Structures like barns and feedlots will be heavily taxed; even fruit trees and grape vines will be subject to higher property taxes.

The result is that families throughout California will pay more for meat, cheese, eggs, produce and virtually every other agricultural product at a time when many can least afford it.

Proposition 15 will even increase property taxes on solar panels and methane digesters, effectively punishing farmers and ranchers for proactively undertaking responsible environmental stewardship.

Prop. 15 will hit ranchers and farmers with higher property taxes during a particularly difficult time. COVID-19 has already thrown supply chains into chaos and changed the food consumption and distribution market overnight.

California ranchers and farmers could lose as much as $8.6 billion in 2020, according to a study by the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Recovering from these losses will take years. Massively increasing property taxes on farms and ranches when revenue has plummeted is a recipe for disaster.

But it’s not just my livelihood and your hard-earned dollars on the line: Proposition 15 would change California’s landscape. California’s vast open spaces and scenic views are iconic, and livestock grazing helps preserve those open spaces. But ranchers’ wealth is tied up in our land, which has no cash value unless and until it is sold. Ranchers operate on tight margins and are often cash-poor.

Proposition 15’s increased tax liability will force many ranchers to sell their land to developers, eliminating open spaces and their breathtaking vistas.

Proposition 15 will be one of the most high-profile issues on the ballot this November. It poses an imminent threat to ranchers and farmers across California, with repercussions for all Californians.

The prospect of eliminating agriculture’s Prop 13-guaranteed tax protections could not come at a worse time. Prop 15, unless defeated, will be the final blow to many ranchers, farmers and our employees. 

This November, join the California Cattlemen’s Association in voting NO on Proposition 15.

Mark Lacey
Mark Lacey is a 4th generation rancher in Inyo County and President of the California Cattlemen’s Association.