When state snow surveyors visit the Sierra Nevada tomorrow, they will find a snowpack well above average for the date—and California agricultural organizations say they hope that translates into improved water supplies for the state’s farmers and ranchers.
“You would think that a snowpack in the range of 175 percent of average would assure plentiful water supplies, but that link has long ago been severed,” said Tom Nassif, president of the Western Growers Association. “Wildlife agencies often hold the key to determining how much water is available, because endangered-species laws reserve water for protected fish.”
Nassif noted the passage of federal legislation called the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, which included short-term provisions to increase flexibility of the state’s water system.
“Among its provisions, the WIIN Act allows water agencies to capture more water during winter storms and requires them to maximize supplies consistent with law. This winter will be a good test of how agencies adhere to that law,” said Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
The WIIN Act also invests in California water storage and desalination projects, complementing the investments California voters made when they passed the Proposition 1 water bond in 2014.
“We’ve had to let too much water run out to sea this winter, because we didn’t have any place to store it,” said Bill Diedrich, president of the California Farm Water Coalition. “We should be doing everything we can to save today’s rain and snow for use tomorrow.”
The California Water Commission will decide later this year on water projects to be funded through the bond.
“We will continue to urge the commission to put that money to work as quickly as possible to build new storage facilities that can capture more water during future winters such as we’ve seen in 2017,” Diedrich said.
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Western Growers – 949-885-2264
California Farm Bureau Federation – 916-561-5550
California Farm Water Coalition – 916-391-5030
Jan. 23, 2017
Calling for continued efforts to break down barriers to agricultural trade, the California Farm Bureau Federation expressed disappointment today in President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
“Trade in food and farm products benefits both rural and urban areas of California,” CFBF President Paul Wenger said. “For example, farm products represent the top export from the Port of Oakland, and agreements such as the TPP would allow us to reach more potential customers in key Pacific Rim markets.”
Wenger said he hopes the administration will follow up with policies aimed at opening foreign markets for American farm products.
“We operate in a world where it’s much easier for crops from other nations to enter the U.S. than for American farm goods to be sold elsewhere,” he said. “We will encourage the administration to work on smaller-scale agreements that would allow American farmers to trade with other nations on an equal basis.”
Wenger noted the administration has also discussed reopening the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.
“If NAFTA is reopened, its agricultural provisions should be left alone,” he said. “We don’t want successful agricultural trade to be caught in any conflict about other portions of the agreement.”
Dec. 22, 2016
From soaring vistas to intimate moments of farm life, submissions to the California Farm Bureau Federation 2016 Photo Contest captured diverse perspectives of the state’s rich agricultural and rural tapestry. Farm Bureau has announced the winners of the 35th annual competition aimed at celebrating California agriculture through photography.
Capturing a pre-dawn glimpse of a Napa County winegrape harvest, photographer Andrew Lincoln of Napa took home the competition’s top honor, the $1,000 Grand Prize. Witnessing the night harvest “makes for a very surreal environment and very dramatic moments,” Lincoln said.
Hannah Gbeh of Jamul garnered First Place and $500 for a portrait of her husband cradling peanut plants on their San Diego County farm. Becky Hanson of Clements earned Second Place and $250 for capturing a colorful walnut orchard in San Joaquin County, and also earned an Honorable Mention for a second photo. Mary Heffernan of Fort Jones won Third Place and $100 for a scene featuring her young daughter with a lamb on their Siskiyou County ranch.
Five additional contestants earned Honorable Mentions and $50 for their efforts: Vanessa Alexandre of Crescent City, Del Norte County; Jenny Manuelli of Riverbank, Stanislaus County; Becky Reisdorf of Carmel, Monterey County; Julie Thornton of Potter Valley, Mendocino County; and Susana Velasco of Alpaugh, Tulare County.
In the Budding Artists category for ages 13 and younger, presented by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, 13-year-old Chelsea Davis of Riverdale claimed First Place and $250 for a photo of her 2-year-old brother playing with toy tractors on the family’s Fresno County farm. The Second Place prize of $100 went to 13-year-old Bella Locke of Tulare for a spirited selfie with her expressive 4-H heifer.
The contest received hundreds of entries from throughout the state. All eligible participants were amateur photographers and members of county Farm Bureaus in California or supporters of the California Bountiful Foundation. This year’s theme, “Fresh Perspective,” encouraged participants to explore unique viewpoints.
In addition to the cash prizes awarded to the photographers, all 12 prize-winning photos will be published in the weekly California Farm Bureau newspaper, Ag Alert®, as well as the organization’s bimonthly magazine, California Bountiful®. The photos will also appear on the organization’s websites (www.cfbf.com, www.agalert.com and www.californiabountiful.com) and social media pages.
Dec. 7, 2016
Urging Congress to allow California to take full advantage of coming winter storms, the California Farm Bureau Federation said today it supports the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act slated for a vote this week.
“As California faces a potential sixth consecutive drought year, it’s critical for Congress to do what it can to assure we can capture as much water as possible from winter storms, while maintaining protections for the environment,” CFBF President Paul Wenger said. “The WIIN bill offers a balanced solution to help pay for long-overdue water supply, conservation and recycling projects.”
The legislation includes bipartisan language aimed at addressing California water shortages, as well as investment in ports, channels and other water infrastructure, and changes to improve drinking-water safety.
“Senator Feinstein, Representative McCarthy and other California members of Congress have worked hard, in good faith, to produce legislation that will benefit our entire state,” Wenger said. “We’ve watched too often as water from winter storms has flowed uncaptured out to sea. We have to become more sophisticated at operating our water system to store as much water as we can while meeting environmental and other needs. This bill moves us in that direction and deserves congressional support.”
Dec. 6, 2016
Four county Farm Bureaus in California have been recognized for excellence and innovation in service to members. The awards were presented last night at the 98th California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Monterey.
The Monterey County Farm Bureau won County of the Year honors among county Farm Bureaus with fewer than 500 members. The county Farm Bureau maintains an active presence in local policy and media forums. It worked with members on agricultural technological innovations in part by collaborating with startup firms on tailoring products and services to the needs of local farmers. The Monterey County Farm Bureau also built coalitions with environmental and land-use organizations to protect groundwater rights and diminish saltwater intrusion during discussions on a proposed desalination facility.
Among county Farm Bureaus with 500 to 799 members, the Sacramento County Farm Bureau was honored as County of the Year—the second straight year it has won in its membership category. The county Farm Bureau offered technical workshops on water-efficiency programs and stressed grassroots political action. It fostered working relationships with federal emergency officials while participating in a coalition to change the flood-insurance program. Among its other efforts, the Sacramento County Farm Bureau encourages members to participate in a Helping Hands program to harvest and donate produce, and works to connect growers to the Sacramento Food Bank.
The Tulare County Farm Bureau earned the County of the Year award among county Farm Bureaus with 800 or more members. It provides dozens of training events each year, invests in a variety of educational programs to reach both students and adults, and has been active in local groundwater-management activities. The Tulare County Farm Bureau engages its leaders and members in a wide range of efforts, organizing more than 100 members involved in 11 active committees that work on policy and organizational topics. It also sponsors and conducts a variety of community events.
The Innovator Award, which recognizes a creative, forward-thinking project or program, was presented to the Shasta County Farm Bureau. Seeking a “fresh, original and creative approach” to recruit members, it sponsored a video contest for local high school FFA chapters, challenging them to create videos about why someone should become a Farm Bureau member. The county Farm Bureau awarded a cash prize to the winning chapter, which helped it expand operations on its school farm and send students to FFA contests and conferences.
Also during the awards ceremony, CFBF recognized 19 county Farm Bureaus for outstanding membership recruitment and retention, and four county Farm Bureaus for earning County Activities of Excellence Awards from the American Farm Bureau Federation. The Fresno County Farm Bureau earned AFBF recognition for co-sponsoring the Valley’s Gold television program; the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Butte County Farm Bureaus received the AFBF award for organizing an Ag Unite advocacy event.
Dec. 6, 2016
A tireless advocate for Central Coast agriculture, Bob Martin, has received the Distinguished Service Award from the California Farm Bureau Federation. Martin accepted the award during the 98th CFBF Annual Meeting in Monterey last night.
Recently retired as general manager of the vegetable-growing operation Rio Farms, Martin has dedicated more than 35 years of service to Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations. He joined the Monterey County Farm Bureau Board of Directors in the 1980s, serving as the organization’s president from 2001-03.
In nominating Martin for the award, the Monterey County Farm Bureau said his impacts on the local community “will be realized for decades,” noting that he had represented Farm Bureau and Monterey County agriculture before numerous public hearings and meetings, with a particular emphasis on water rights and right-to-farm issues.
“Bob Martin has given of himself time and again in efforts to assure a successful future for Monterey County agriculture,” CFBF President Paul Wenger said. “His volunteer service to Farm Bureau and other organizations sets an example of dedication and community involvement.”
In addition to his Farm Bureau service, Martin has served on the boards of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, the Salinas River Channel Coalition and Hartnell College Foundation. He has also volunteered on advisory committees including the Monterey County Ag Water Advisory Committee and California Leafy Greens Technical Advisory Committee. He served on the King City Volunteer Fire Department and as a trustee of the King City Joint Union School District.
The Distinguished Service Award has been presented annually since 1953 to dedicated Farm Bureau volunteers from California.
Dec. 6, 2016
Following a discussion about the need to reform the nation’s immigration policy, a Trinity County man earned top honors in the California Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Open Discussion Meet. Dan Dresselhaus of Weaverville received the award today during the 98th CFBF Annual Meeting in Monterey.
Molly Fagundes of Tulare County was judged first runner-up in the contest; Amber Simmons of San Luis Obispo County and Brie Witt of San Joaquin County were the other finalists.
In the final round of the contest, the four finalists were asked to address the question: “American agriculture depends on a foreign-born labor force. How would you draft a national immigration policy?”
Dresselhaus pointed out that the issue of immigration is a “highly emotional topic, ranging from open borders to isolationism.” Central to solving the issue, he said, is to reach a compromise between finding the employees farmers need, while also honoring the country’s laws.
“We need to look at reforming our guestworker program to make it more timely and flexible,” Dresselhaus said. “We also have to discuss solutions on how to bring the current workforce that is here illegally into the current workforce (legally).”
As the Discussion Meet winner, Dresselhaus earned $5,000 courtesy of sponsors Farm Credit, Rabobank and Chevrolet. The first runner-up, Fagundes, received $1,000; the other two finalists each earned $500.
Dresselhaus, a registered professional forester with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, will represent California during the American Farm Bureau Federation Open Discussion Meet, to be held at the AFBF Annual Convention next month in Phoenix.
Dec. 5, 2016
Pointing to the sacrifices made by previous generations to provide opportunity to family farmers and ranchers, California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said farmers have the ability to change their future, if they commit the time and resources to the effort. Wenger spoke during the opening session of the 98th CFBF Annual Meeting in Monterey.
“Those people who came before us gave us this opportunity, and the big question is whether we are going to answer that bell,” Wenger said, praising earlier generations who had the foresight to build reservoirs, roads and other infrastructure that allowed California to become the greatest agricultural region in the world.
Now, he said, the struggle has focused on defending the resources farmers and ranchers need to maintain and enhance production of food and farm products. In order to be successful, Wenger said, farmers and ranchers must work together—across commodities and across regions.
“We have to pool our resources, so we have the political might to change the future for this state,” he said, adding that Farm Bureau would continue to work closely with other agricultural organizations and partners.
In discussing the election of Donald Trump as president and the implications of the incoming administration, Wenger acknowledged concerns about trade and immigration policy. But he said the new administration would likely focus on easing the impact of federal regulation on farms and other businesses.
“We can look to the federal level to help us, but folks, all politics is local. We have to be involved, we have to be engaged and we have to invest," he said.
At the end of his speech, Wenger returned to the theme of sacrifices made by previous generations of California farmers and ranchers to allow current generations to live a better life.
“What do we give back to make sure our children and grandchildren have that same opportunity?” he asked. “The baton is in our hands. What are we going to do with it?”
Dec. 5, 2016
Ten Farm Bureau members from California have graduated from the Leadership Farm Bureau program, having completed intensive training on leadership, communication and advocacy skills. The graduates were honored today during the 98th California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Monterey.
Sponsored by CFBF, the program provides more than 200 hours of instruction to people interested in expanding their leadership role in agriculture. This year’s graduates included:
Along with training focused on personal development, human behavior, public speaking, working with the media, political advocacy, government structure, key political issues, and the organization and structure of Farm Bureau, the 2016 LFB class conducted advocacy trips to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., plus tours of agricultural sites in Butte, Tehama, Imperial and San Diego counties.
CFBF is accepting applications for the 2017 LFB class through Dec. 16. For information, see www.cfbf.com/leadership-farm-bureau.
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.