NORTH BAY – Despite the loss of all $27 million in state reimbursements this fiscal year to counties for lowering property taxes on agricultural land, the six North Bay counties largely are continuing the programs.

Such repayment under the 1965 California Land Conservation Act, or Williamson Act, amounted to $1.85 million for the 1.2 million acres under agricultural preserve contracts in the North Bay.

The Lake County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 8 directed staff to prepare recommendations for continuing the program for compliant contracts but agreed on a moratorium on new contracts until state finances improve.

On Sept. 15, Napa County supervisors voted 5-0 to continue the program without a moratorium on new contracts. Assistant County Executive Officer Britt Ferguson told the board that such a moratorium could discourage further conservation of agricultural land. If the loss of reimbursements, called subvention payments, continues for five years, the county would lose $450,000.

On the same day, Mendocino County supervisors noted consensus against a recommendation from its Resource Lands Protection Committee to abstain from new Williamson Act contracts as the county faces the loss of nearly $600,000 a year in subventions. They would, however, support a committee recommendation to enforce the minimum acreage requirements of the act.

In June the Marin County Board of Supervisors decided to start the nine-year non-renewal process for 13 west Marin contracts after reviewing actual agricultural use for 25 properties ahead of a state Department of Conservation audit this summer.

Sonoma County supervisors are set to weigh options with Williamson Act contracts this month, according to Pete Parkinson, director of the Permit & Resource Management Department. He said that the nearly $400,000 a year the county would lose in continuing the program pales in comparison to some large agricultural central California counties that will be out up to $5 million.