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The Agricultural Ombudsman is here to help agricultural producers navigate the permitting process, and facilitate meetings between the different county, state and federal agencies.   


About the Program

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors hosted the Sonoma County Food Forum in 2011. Two priority outcomes from the forum were improved regulatory and permit processes for farmers, and establishment of a county staff position to further a healthy, local food system.  Participants agreed that agricultural producers seek ways to increase their bottom line through diversification, vertical integration of products, and agritourism.

Those types of expansions require permits that can be complicated, frustrating, expensive, and may discourage some from growing their businesses, which is not good for the local economy.  There is a need to simplify and tailor regulations for agricultural operations in our county. A gap exists between farmers and ranchers who need help and the lengthy, sometimes confusing processes they must negotiate to obtain county and/or state permits. 

To address these needs, the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), Sonoma County, has an Agricultural Ombudsman program, and hired Karen Giovannini in 2013 to help agricultural producers navigate the permitting process, and facilitate meetings between the different county, state and federal agencies.

Typical activities that fall under this purview are enterprise expansion projects such as agritourism, milk and meat processing and value-added products.  The Agriculture Ombudsman also provides up front investigation of what might be required for a new project. 

Ag Ombud in the news: