After scrutinizing a host of issues facing California agriculture, organizers of the first California Ag Summit narrowed the list to the three most challenging topics – water, politics and future trends. About 200 farmers, ranchers, business leaders and policy experts heard presentations last month on what these issues mean for California crop production.
Speaking to attendees at the University of California, Davis, Conference Center, summit chairman and environmental attorney Anthony Van Ruiten of Sacramento says the challenges agriculture faces “extend beyond the industry to the education of consumers about what we do. Future trends are not just influenced by demand for specific commodities or land prices, but by trends that influence consumers and what they buy, how they buy it and how that translates to the farm gate.”
Perceptions Must Be Changed
In addressing the topic of a changing and dynamic political process, California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger noted that influencing the perceptions of elected officials starts with reaching out to them, bringing them to the state’s farms and ranches and showing them what goes into growing crops and caring for the land.
Referring to passage of Proposition 2, a 2008 ballot measure that addresses confinement of certain farm animals, Wenger said, “What that tells us is that the people who are very concerned about where their food comes from and the cost of that food, are the people backing political efforts to change farming practices.
“That situation creates an opening for us,” Wenger continued. “It’s not about who is a Democrat or who is a Republican. It’s not about convenient political alliances. It’s about who wants to understand the issues and constructively work toward solutions.”
He said a disconnect between agriculture and elected officials and consumers creates misunderstandings.
Dealing With New Regulations
Joining Wenger in a discussion of California’s changing political landscape and the risks for agriculture were Arnie Riebli, an egg farmer from Sunrise Farms in Petaluma, and Modesto egg farmer Jill Benson. Benson said her family’s company, JS West, and other egg producers are seeking ways to comply with Proposition 2 – doing so in the face of potential criminal penalties, regulatory uncertainty and the need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new facilities.
California Farm Bureau Federation recently published this article on its Web site at www.cfbf.com.
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