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Lauren Grizzle resigns, but ‘will always be an advocate'

October 11, 2001|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

The Imperial Valley is losing an energetic farming activist with the resignation of Lauren Grizzle as executive director of both the Imperial County Farm Bureau and Vegetable Growers Association.

Grizzle has moved to Rancho Penasquitos in San Diego County with her husband, Brent, and their daughter.

Brent Grizzle, a third-generation Imperial Valley farmer, is finishing his master's degree in business administration at the University of San Diego and will pursue commercial real estate and development.

"We have very strong feelings about the Imperial Valley," Grizzle said. "I will always be an advocate for the Valley."

Grizzle will stay on as a consultant during the transition period to work with the Farm Bureau and the vegetable growers on two key issues: air quality and the Imperial Irrigation District's efficiency study.

Grizzle was with the Farm Bureau for four years and with the vegetable growers association for more than three years. It was the first time the two executive director positions were combined. The duties continue to be combined as Steve Pastor takes over Grizzle's job.

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Pastor is a third-generation farmer who was active with the California Farm Bureau and was vice president of the Riverside County Farm Bureau before coming to the Imperial Valley.

"It makes sense to combine the two positions," Grizzle said.

There are about 900 Imperial County Farm Bureau members and about 300 vegetable grower association members, Grizzle said. Since the groups have been working together, they've become a considerable force.

Grizzle will be missed by Valley farmers who appreciate her hard work.

Grizzle was instrumental with key issues such as the total maximum daily load and the Williamson Act, said John Pierre Menvielle of El Centro, a third-generation farmer in the Imperial Valley.

The TMDL refers to the maximum amount of silt and other materials allowed to flow through waterways. The California Regional Water Quality Control Board released a report on the sediment of the Alamo River.

The board proposed cutting the silt level by 50 percent. Farmers are worried about the added costs of reducing the silt flowing off their farms into the Alamo. For some, the silt-removing costs may be too expensive to continue farming.

The 1965 Williamson Act was not being utilized by area farmers. Grizzle staged workshops so bureau members could learn how to take advantage of the tax benefits the act made available.

The act allows local governments to establish agricultural preserves of at least 100 acres that qualify the landowners for tax breaks in return for keeping the land in agriculture or open space.

According to the state Department of Conservation, one in three Williamson Act farmers and ranchers said in a survey he would not be farming today if not for the legislation. The act has been lauded for saving landowners 20 to 75 percent on their property tax liabilities.

Locally, Grizzle estimates the Williamson Act is saving bureau members close to $1 million.

"She's done an outstanding job. It's hard to see her go," Menvielle said.

Grizzle also worked on labor issues, dairy attraction, water transfer issues, environmental issues and calling for a quarantine on Mexican melons.

As a consultant, she will continue to work on the IID efficiency study. The bureau pushed for the study because farmers had problems with the district's billing, such as delays in certain water billing and delinquent payment notices.

"The bigger issue is how IID operates and is governed," Grizzle said.

Grizzle will consult on air quality and stay on long enough to help the bureau work with the county, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Air Resources Board on air issues.

The county recently was given an allowance for pollution that comes from Mexico, but changes will still have to clean the air.

"We want to be cooperative, but the changes have to make sense," Grizzle said.

With all the challenges Grizzle has seen, she is bullish on farming in the Imperial Valley in the long term. She said the Valley has resources: open space, available labor and water, that make it unique in California.

Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 760-337-3452 or la_mitchel1@yahoo.com

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