A view of the bountiful San Juan Valley, taken from Fremont Peak. Photo provided by Wayne Norton.
A view of the bountiful San Juan Valley, taken from Fremont Peak. Photo provided by Wayne Norton.

This column was contributed by Wayne Norton, who is running for San Benito County Supervisor District 2. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

Agriculture supports the San Benito County economy. County leaders must protect agriculture from a variety of threats as we evolve. One of those threats is the effects of climate change.

San Benito County’s ag industry is responsible for more than $300 million in production from wine grapes, cattle, fruit and vegetables. That’s an impressive output for a small county that ranks 41st in population out of 58 counties in the state.

As a former managing editor of our local daily newspaper and other management and leadership positions, I understand that agriculture is central to our local economy. Ag is a way of life for our county. The vitality of our region depends on this industry to not only feed us, but to create jobs and economic opportunities that allow us to prosper.

During a recent endorsement interview of candidates for District 2 Supervisor, each were asked what they believed was the most important issue facing the county government. My answer:

“The most immediate issue is financial stability. We have to get the county’s finances on stable footing.”

Central to protecting the financial picture for all of us involves combating climate change and planning how to effectively deal with this issue.

Every day we learn more about the damage wrought by the changing climate that will severely impact the quality of life for all of us, including our children and grandchildren. We must summon the will to mobilize and take decisive action.

There is a long list of things we must do to preserve and enhance life in San Benito County. We must fix the roads, recruit jobs, adequately fund public safety, ensure the county library meets today’s needs, reduce county employee turnover by paying competitive wages—and much more. Taking appropriate steps to mitigate the danger of climate change must be added to our agenda.

San Benito County, Hollister and San Juan Bautista have begun working on the issue, but we can and must do more.  State law requires each of our jurisdictions to adopt climate action plans that spell out how they will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but little work has been done developing those plans.

To that end, I am calling for the creation of a joint task force that will pool the resources of the county, Hollister and San Juan Bautista to develop a climate action plan that will gather all the relevant environmental data and provide a practical plan to bring the entire county into compliance with state requirements.

San Benito County is strongest when we work together. That’s why I will insist that the task force collaborate with leaders from agriculture, business, education and all other relevant communities.

As your elected representative I assure you I will lead the Board of Supervisors on this issue of our lifetime.

Recognized by the State Assembly in 2019 for protecting the environment, Wayne Norton is a two-term elected Aromas Water District director and candidate for San Benito County Supervisor in District 2. 

A Vietnam veteran, Wayne is a former managing editor of the daily Hollister Free Lance. He is an active advocate for quality public education and was a founding staff member of Anzar High School, a California Distinguished School. As a former long-term care Ombudsman, Wayne protected the rights of residents in nursing homes and investigated elder abuse. He currently serves as a director on the Seniors Council of Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties, and has consistently led and volunteered for a wide variety of public commissions and community organizations since moving to the area in 1985.