July 16, 2019
As farmers in California and elsewhere around the country try to cope with chronic employee shortages, the president of the California Farm Bureau Federation said administrative changes to the current H-2A agricultural visa program could be one element of a solution, while Congress continues to work on broader legislation.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced plans to modernize and improve the existing H-2A agricultural visa program, which allows people from certain countries to enter the United States temporarily for on-farm jobs.
“We’re encouraged by the administration’s efforts to improve the H-2A system,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “We continue to analyze the full proposal, but our initial reading shows that it would streamline certain aspects of the program and expand it to include additional forms of agriculture, such as reforestation work.”
More California farmers have begun using the H-2A program, he said, but added that it has generally not been flexible enough for many of the state’s crops and commodities.
“When we asked Farm Bureau members earlier this year to tell us how they are addressing employee shortages, only 6% of the farmers who responded to our survey said they were using H-2A,” Johansson said. “Changes proposed by the administration may increase that proportion, but farmers also need wider improvement to immigration laws that can only be addressed through congressional action.”
Farm Bureau and other organizations continue working with members of Congress on solutions that would provide legal status to current farm employees in the U.S. while further enhancing the agricultural visa program to include a portability mechanism.
“Ultimately, immigration laws need to accommodate employees and their immediate family members who are in the country now, plus allow future employees to enter the U.S. and move from farm to farm for employment,” Johansson said. “We will continue to pursue that goal with Congress and the administration. H-2A reform is only one piece of the puzzle.”
June 20, 2019
Water legislation introduced today in the U.S. Senate recognizes the continued crisis facing water reliability in the West, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.
CFBF endorsed the Drought Resiliency and Water Supply Infrastructure Act by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who introduced the bipartisan legislation along with Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. The bill would authorize federal funding for new storage, recycling and desalination projects; create a loan program for water supply projects; enhance forest restoration and other activities to benefit water supply or quality; and take additional steps to encourage water development.
“We thank Senator Feinstein for her ongoing efforts to improve the water outlook in California and throughout the West,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “In this decade alone, California has experienced severe drought and torrential rainfall, and experts believe that may be the future trend for our state. That means we must improve investment in water projects to capture water when it’s available.”
Johansson said the bill would make investments in water infrastructure more attractive and affordable for state, regional and local agencies, and also welcomed provisions authorizing federal participation in forest, meadow and watershed-restoration activities.
“Watershed restoration improves the quality, timing and other aspects of water than runs off into surface or groundwater facilities,” he said. “Federal forestland must be actively managed for public safety, the environment and water supply.”
May 23, 2019
Expressing appreciation for the Trump administration’s broadened programs to ease the impact of retaliatory trade actions on American farmers, the president of the California Farm Bureau Federation reiterated the need to resolve the disputes at the root of the issue.
CFBF President Jamie Johansson was in Washington, D.C., today when the administration announced the tariff-assistance package.
“It’s clear that the administration wants to do what’s best for American farmers and ranchers,” Johansson said, “and we appreciate this second round of assistance for those who have suffered loss of markets and crop value due to retaliatory tariffs.”
Johansson noted the new package provides assistance to more California-grown crops not previously included in certain programs, specifically direct assistance through the Market Facilitation Program for walnuts, pistachios, table grapes and potentially others.
“Farm Bureau worked in concert with members of Congress from California, advocating for inclusion of more fruit, nut and other ‘specialty’ crops in the assistance package. Adding those crops will help further buffer rural California from the impact of the trade disputes, and we thank the administration for doing that,” he said.
Johansson noted that farmers are heading into a second straight harvest season in the middle of a trade war.
“Ultimately, the best assistance for farmers and ranchers would be to resolve the trade disputes and open markets for California farm products,” he said.
Johansson said Congress can also help improve foreign markets for agricultural products.
“The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement will solidify agricultural trade with two of California’s top customers for farm goods,” he said. “The USMCA deserves swift, bipartisan passage.”
May 22, 2019
Two key positions have been filled at the California Farm Bureau Federation, with the appointment of Karen Norene Mills as director of legal services and Karen Smith Olson as director of marketing and communications.
Mills joined CFBF in 1988 as an associate counsel, and currently serves as the organization’s senior attorney for energy policy, representing Farm Bureau members before the California Public Utilities Commission and other regulatory agencies.
“Karen’s advocacy before the PUC has saved California farmers and ranchers an estimated $65 million in potential electricity rate increases,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “Her proven record of meaningful work on behalf of California agriculture has prepared her well to oversee Farm Bureau legal activities.”
A graduate of the University of California, Davis, Mills earned her law degree from the McGeorge School of Law. She will begin her new position June 1.
Olson will join CFBF June 17, overseeing its marketing and communications work including websites, social media, publications and broadcast services. Since 2002, she has served as vice president of marketing for CalChamber, the state’s largest not-for-profit business association. She joined the California Chamber of Commerce in 1998 as its director of marketing and helped the organization develop its marketing department.
“With Karen Olson, Farm Bureau adds a respected marketer who knows California well and can help our organization attract and serve members,” Johansson said. “She will work to raise Farm Bureau’s profile, which in turn will benefit the organization’s other advocacy and member services work.”
Olson earned a degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and, prior to joining CalChamber, worked in a variety of marketing and advertising positions.
May 17, 2019
The California Farm Bureau Federation supports President Trump’s removal of steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexican and Canadian imports and urges swift ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“With Canada and Mexico agreeing to lift their retaliatory tariffs on many California agricultural products, it will provide a boost in exports and have a ripple effect throughout the farm and rural economy,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “The president’s action today to remove steel and aluminum tariffs on two of our trading allies eliminates a major obstacle to USMCA moving through Congress.”
The next step is for the president to submit USMCA to Congress for approval.
“We urge our California senators and representatives to work together for quick passage of USMCA,” Johansson said. “This could be a bipartisan achievement resulting in a big victory for the family farm.”
Canada represents the second-largest market for California agricultural exports, with sales of more than $3.3 billion in 2016, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Mexico is the No. 5 foreign market for California farm products, with sales of more than $1 billion in 2016.
April 30, 2019
Despite taking a variety of steps to alleviate chronic shortages of agricultural employees, California farmers and ranchers continue to report problems in hiring enough people for on-farm jobs. A survey released today shows 56% of participating farmers had been unable to hire all the employees they needed at some point during the previous five years.
The voluntary survey of 1,071 farmers and ranchers, conducted by the California Farm Bureau Federation in collaboration with the University of California, Davis, also indicated worsening problems the past two years. Of those farmers reporting employee shortages, at least 70% said they had more trouble hiring employees in 2017 and 2018.
“The survey shows farmers have tried and are trying all the tactics available to them, such as increased wages, changes in farming and cropping patterns, use of the existing H-2A visa program and automation where appropriate,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “The missing element is an improved agricultural immigration system, to match willing employees with farm employers.”
The great majority of California farmers responding to the survey—86%—said they had raised wages in efforts to hire enough people. Sixty-one percent reported they had hired a farm labor contractor to recruit employees. More than half reported they have started using mechanization and of those, 56% said it was due to employee shortages. Thirty-seven percent said they had adjusted cultivation practices, for example by reducing or delaying weeding and pruning. About one-third, 31%, said they are switching acreage. More farmers have also sought to hire people via the H-2A agricultural visa program, but only about 6% of surveyed farmers said they had enrolled in it.
“Through the years, the H-2A program has proven inadequate for farms in California and throughout the nation,” Johansson said. “Farm Bureau will continue to work with Congress to create a secure, flexible, market-based immigration program that works better for both farmers and farm employees.”
In terms of the proportion of farmers reporting employee shortages, the 2019 results are similar to a CFBF survey in 2017, which showed 55% of farmers experiencing shortages.
A full survey report is available on the CFBF website at www.cfbf.com/2019survey.
March 25, 2019
(Washington, D.C.) – Over 100 organizations representing water and agricultural interests in the Western U.S. urged Congress today to use any infrastructure package under consideration to help address severe hydrological conditions in the West.
“As a nation we must continually invest in the Western water infrastructure necessary to meet current and future demands,” the groups stated in a letter sent to key congressional committees and Western senators. “Our existing water infrastructure in the West is aging and in need of rehabilitation and improvement.”
President Trump has said infrastructure might be one area that both political parties in the 116th Congress can agree upon. The Democratic Party’s to-do list also includes an ambitious infrastructure program. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.—one of the recipients of the letter—now chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he intends to lead efforts to produce a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure bill to fund transportation and water projects.
“We agree with Rep. DeFazio’s assessment that infrastructure is a place of potential common ground and agreement in this Congress,” said Pat O’Toole, president of the Family Farm Alliance, one of the signatories to the letter.
“Despite a much-above-average snowpack, many California water users will still face water shortages in 2019,” California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson said. “That underlines the need to improve our water infrastructure, so we can make more efficient use of water for both our economy and environment.”
“The recent wet weather notwithstanding, we know that persistent drought conditions in the western United States are the new normal,” said Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif. “For this reason, our nation must invest, in earnest, in the long-term security of our water supplies in the West.”
The letter underscores that water conservation, water recycling, watershed management, conveyance, desalination, water transfers, groundwater storage and surface storage are all needed in a diversified management portfolio.
“We need you to ensure that Western water users have every tool available to survive and recover from years of drought and to prepare for the hard, dry years the future may hold,” the letter states. “We call upon each of you to push forward on infrastructure and in so doing you must use any infrastructure package to not only address our nation’s chronic needs surrounding roads and bridges, but to also include water infrastructure needs for storage and conveyance.”
March 12, 2019
Ten Farm Bureau members from California have begun intensive training on agricultural issues and leadership methods through the Leadership Farm Bureau program. The Class of 2019 was formally introduced today during the annual California Farm Bureau Federation Leaders Conference in Sacramento.
During the year, the class members will benefit from more than 250 hours of instruction during seven sessions that focus on agricultural issues, governmental policy and personal development. Participants will advocate on behalf of Farm Bureau in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., take field-studies trips in Northern California and out of state, and will emerge from the program with enhanced background in communication, teambuilding, advocacy and the Farm Bureau organization.
The LFB Class of 2019 includes:
The 2019 Leadership Farm Bureau class will graduate in December during the 101st CFBF Annual Meeting in Monterey. For further information about the program, see www.cfbf.com/leadership-farm-bureau.
February 26, 2019
Citing his history of success as a farmer, businessman and elected representative, the California Farm Bureau Federation has endorsed Brian Dahle for state Senate.
Dahle, R-Bieber, seeks election in the 1st Senate District, which includes all or parts of Alpine, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Shasta, Sierra and Siskiyou counties. A special primary election for the seat is scheduled March 26.
Since 2012, Dahle has represented the 1st Assembly District in the Legislature, and CFBF President Jamie Johansson said Dahle has compiled a record of effective advocacy on rural issues.
“Throughout his years in the Legislature, Brian Dahle has more than justified the confidence we had when Farm Bureau endorsed him in his first run for Assembly,” Johansson said. “He has been steadfast in his support for issues that matter most to rural California voters, including water supply and property rights.”
Johansson noted Dahle’s career as a third-generation farmer and owner of a seed business.
“Because he farms and operates a business himself, Brian understands directly how government actions can help or hurt the rural economy,” Johansson said. “With his agricultural, business and legislative experience, he is an ideal candidate to represent this important region of California.”
February 21, 2019
With the Sierra Nevada snowpack rising to nearly 150 percent of average, the California Farm Bureau Federation said it’s understandable why some agricultural customers of the federal Central Valley Project would be disappointed by the initial CVP water outlook. The project, operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, has told agricultural service contractors south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to expect 35 percent of contract supplies, and those north of the delta to expect 70 percent.
“California has been blessed with an abundant Sierra snowpack and that should be recognized in making an initial water allocation, so farmers can make their planting decisions,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “We hope the CVP will be able to increase its allocations as the spring continues. In above-average years such as this, we need to provide as much certainty about available supplies as early as possible to farmers and all other water users.”
Johansson said the CVP likely needed to be conservative in its projections because of biological opinions for protected fish that require water to be reserved for fishery uses.
“We’re hopeful that revised biological opinions can provide more flexibility in managing the system and encourage creative projects for improving fish populations,” Johansson said.
“From our offices along the banks of the Sacramento River, I can look out and see a river swollen with runoff heading toward the ocean,” he said. “In wet winters such as this, we need to be able to capture more of that runoff, both above and below ground, to shield people and the environment from future droughts and replenish our groundwater basins.”
Johansson said Farm Bureau “will continue to advocate for balanced water policies that benefit our state’s farms, cities and environment alike.”
February 12, 2019
An experienced agricultural advocate and executive, Jim Houston, has been appointed administrator of the California Farm Bureau Federation. Houston will succeed Rich Matteis, who will retire at the end of March after serving as CFBF administrator since 2007.
Houston joined CFBF in October 2017 as manager of its Governmental Affairs Division. In January 2018, he assumed additional duties managing the CFBF Legal Services Division and serving as the organization’s administrative counsel. Prior to joining CFBF, Houston worked for six years at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, first as deputy secretary for legislation and public engagement, then as department undersecretary.
“Jim brings a combination of advocacy and governmental experience that makes him uniquely qualified to lead our Farm Bureau staff,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “As our organization celebrates its centennial, Jim is the best person to help guide Farm Bureau into a successful second century of service to California farmers and ranchers.”
Houston is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and earned a law degree from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. His professional career also includes work as a legislative staff member and for a Sacramento advocacy firm that represented a variety of agricultural clients.
Following his retirement as administrator, Matteis will continue to serve CFBF as a strategic advisor. His 45-year career in agricultural advocacy includes service as manager of the Santa Clara and Alameda County Farm Bureaus, as a CFBF field representative and, prior to rejoining CFBF, 27 years as chief executive officer of the California Grain and Feed Association, which also provided management services and legislative advocacy for two-dozen other agricultural associations.
“Rich has successfully guided CFBF through a period of significant change and has cemented its role as the state’s premier agricultural advocacy organization,” Johansson said. “We are grateful for his service and pleased to continue benefiting from his expertise.”
February 4, 2019
A plan for lower San Joaquin River flows misrepresents and underestimates the harm it would cause to agricultural resources in the Central Valley, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation, which filed suit today to block the plan.
Adopted last December by the State Water Resources Control Board, the plan would redirect 30 to 50 percent of “unimpaired flows” in three San Joaquin River tributaries—the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers—in the name of increasing fish populations in the rivers. The flows plan would sharply reduce the amount of water available to irrigate crops in regions served by the rivers.
In its lawsuit, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, Farm Bureau said the flows plan would have “far-reaching environmental impacts to the agricultural landscape in the Central Valley,” and that those impacts had been “insufficiently analyzed, insufficiently avoided and insufficiently mitigated” in the board’s final plan.
“The water board brushed off warnings about the significant damage its plan would cause to agricultural resources in the Central Valley, labeling it ‘unavoidable,’” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “But that damage can be avoided, by following a different approach that would be better for fish and people alike.”
The Farm Bureau lawsuit says the water board failed to consider reasonable alternatives to its flows-dominated approach, including non-flow measures such as predator control, food supply and habitat projects for protected fish, and said it ignored “overwhelming evidence” that ocean conditions, predation and lack of habitat—rather than river flows—have been chief contributors to reducing fish populations.
The water board’s analysis of impacts on agricultural resources “is inadequate in several respects,” Farm Bureau said. The lawsuit says the board plan fails to appropriately analyze its impact on surface water supplies and, in turn, how cutting surface water would affect attempts to improve groundwater under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act—all of which would cause direct, indirect and cumulative effects on agricultural resources.
“California farmland is a significant environmental resource, providing food, farm products and jobs for people throughout the state, nation and world,” Johansson said. “Before cutting water to thousands of acres of farmland for dubious benefit, the state must do more to analyze alternatives that would avoid this environmental harm.”
January 17, 2019
Calling it “an important first step,” the California Farm Bureau Federation welcomed today’s introduction in Congress of new legislation to provide legal status to immigrant farm employees in the United States.
The Agricultural Worker Program Act, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, would grant legal “blue card” status to immigrants who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days during the previous two years.
CFBF President Jamie Johansson said the bill addresses a critical component of comprehensive immigration reform.
“We’re encouraged by the bill’s introduction in both chambers and appreciate the leadership of our California legislators to begin tackling this issue at the beginning of the new Congress,” Johansson said. “Farm employees and farmers need legislation that addresses legal status for employees and their immediate family members who are in the country now.
“Though this legislation is an important first step, CFBF supports comprehensive immigration reform that would allow future employees to migrate more easily to and from their home country, as well as to move from farm to farm for employment,” he said.
“We encourage Congress to address the broader needs of farmers and their employees through comprehensive immigration reform,” Johansson said.
December 26, 2018
An intimate portrait of a man harvesting merlot winegrapes in the Napa Valley earned the Grand Prize in the 37th annual California Farm Bureau Federation photo contest.
The photographer, Andrew Lincoln of Napa, received $1,000 in prize money. He said he especially enjoys taking pictures of harvest and hopes his photos draw attention to the important work people do on California farms and ranches. Lincoln also won the contest’s Grand Prize in 2016.
This year’s CFBF Photo Contest attracted hundreds of entries from amateur photographers who are members of county Farm Bureaus or supporters of the California Bountiful Foundation.
Andrea Traphagan of Ravendale garnered First Place and $500 for a photo of her tractor-driving husband preparing a Lassen County field at sunset. Second Place and $250 went to Angels Camp resident Mindy Rasmussen for her action shot of a late-summer cattle drive. Lincoln also earned Third Place and an additional $100 for a photo that captured two snowy egrets in flight.
Six photos earned Honorable Mentions and $50 each, submitted by Celeste Alonzo of La Quinta, Chelsea Davis of Fresno, James Durst of Esparto, Nicole Andreini of Orland, Wendy Sylvester of San Luis Obispo and Traphagan.
In the Budding Artists category for photographers ages 13 and younger, 10-year-old Dottie Davis of Orland claimed First Place and $250 for a serene landscape of her family’s hay farm. A curious goat peered closely into the lens of Kyle Radich’s camera to earn the 13-year-old Point Arena resident the Second Place prize of $100. Both awards were presented by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.
All 12 prize-winning photos were published this week in the California Farm Bureau newspaper, Ag Alert®, and will appear in the organization’s bimonthly magazine, California Bountiful®. The winning photographs may be viewed at www.cfbf.com/photocontest, and will also be posted on the Ag Alert and California Bountiful websites.
December 11, 2018
At a time of declining commodity prices, trade disputes and regulatory uncertainty, the California Farm Bureau Federation endorsed the federal farm bill adopted today by the U.S. Senate, and urged quick passage by the House of Representatives.
“With its provisions for nutrition programs as well as farm programs, the farm bill is important in the city as well as on the farm,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “We thank Senators Feinstein and Harris for voting for it, and will urge California congressional members to follow suit.”
Johansson said the bill makes a number of improvements to conservation programs, including the popular Environmental Quality Incentives Program. It continues specific programs for fruit, vegetable, nut and nursery producers, as well as initiatives to benefit organic farming. The bill will also enhance trade programs to encourage exports of American farm goods.
“Farm exports support jobs in rural California, of course, but also in marketing and transportation companies located in our big cities,” Johansson said. “Programs that help California food and farm products reach more customers will boost jobs at ports and warehouses as well as at farms and packinghouses.”
He said Farm Bureau also welcomes farm bill programs to protect animal agriculture from catastrophic diseases, to allow dairy farmers to enroll in risk-management programs and to increase crop-insurance flexibility.
“The farm bill also invests in agricultural research, including studies of ways to mechanize more on-farm tasks,” Johansson said. “Farmers and ranchers face chronic problems in hiring enough qualified people, so this sort of technological research will be closely watched.”
But Johansson said CFBF was disappointed the final bill did not do more to improve wildfire prevention and forest management.
“Given the terrible impact of wildfires in California and elsewhere in the West, we need to manage our forests and wildlands better, and we will be advocating for that in the next Congress,” he said.
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