A Ventura County group that wants to prevent agricultural land from being developed is going public with its campaign to drum up support to preserve the county's open farmland.
The Agricultural Land Trust advisory committee is scheduled to present alternative ways to preserve farmland to city councils and private associations over the next month.
The committee seeks comments from the county's residents on whether they would support an agricultural land trust that could buy land and lease it back to growers to cultivate. The trust could also be set up to buy development rights to block converting farmland into shopping malls or other developments.
Among the funding suggestions are a quarter-cent sales tax on the public or tacking on a fee to those already paid by developers for the right to build in the community.
The trust could also be established without a steady source of income. Under this scenario it would simply accept donations of cash or land through wills or other voluntary contributions.
Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Earl McPhail, a member of the advisory committee, said the number of cultivated acres in the county dwindles at the rate of about 1,500 acres per year. "The long-term future of farming in the county depends on the formation of an agricultural land trust," he said in December.