Annual address by CFBF President Doug Mosebar
CFBF 88th Annual Meeting, Anaheim, Dec. 4, 2006
- It's all about you...
- Faces of spirit...
- Faces of perseverance...
- Faces of passion...
You are the Faces of Farm Bureau... and it has been my pleasure to serve as your President this year. When you look around today I know you will see some familiar faces and I know you will also take the time to greet some new faces.
Thank you for all that you do. Your spirit, perseverance and passion resound with all who come into contact with you, and that has been especially true for me. I am proud to say that Farm Bureau is well positioned, and well recognized, for the leadership we provide on all fronts. I made a promise to you to preserve, protect and enhance our farming way of life, and I aim to continue to deliver on that promise in the years ahead.
I stood before you last year and promised to tell your stories to anyone who would listen... and even to some who might not want to listen. You all have a good story to tell and I thank you for giving us the opportunity to represent you. I have had a lot of help with this, as I have the best team there is in your Vice Presidents Paul Wenger and Kenny Watkins. We all trust each other, we have faith in each other and we speak from the same page to serve you in the best possible way.
We have been to both the state and nation's capitols rallying against regulations that would adversely impact you. We shed light on your celebrations, as well as your challenges, with those folks who have the power to create change. We have kept and will continue to keep important issues in the news.
In our travels we have met many folks who exemplify what it means to be a face of farm bureau. People whose dedication and leadership on issues such as the death tax, immigration reform, labor, water, education and environmental stewardship bring the policies you craft to life.
We want you to be able to farm without having your hands tied. We want you to be able to market your commodities without a lot of red tape. We want you to be able to pass your land on to a new generation so that the farming way of life does not become paved over by big box stores, parking lots and strip malls. Farms and ranches should not be described in our classroom history books... they should continue to thrive as they have for many generations past and many generations to come.
This year we gained more than 1,800 new voting members. For the first time under our membership royalty program, eleven counties achieved growth in their voting memberships. Sacramento County, with all of its urban development, achieved the highest growth in voting membership. Overall, we are now nearly 92,000 members strong thanks to your work and commitment.
Your participation makes a difference, and your membership has great value and tremendous benefits. And we hope you know how powerful our numbers are within Farm Bureau, each time you renew your membership, or encourage others to join us for the very first time.
We are a working part of the fabric of each of our communities. With that in mind we need to remember to stand alongside our urban neighbors to work collaboratively on common issues... issues like air and water quality, land use and water supply. They are recognizing the importance of our contributions so let's keep the dialog open so that we can learn from each other.
We are all mostly creatures of habit, and change is a creature we would love to ignore. But change is happening... and we have to remain out front so that we do not get left behind. I am excited about the developments in renewable energy and the opportunities for farmers to produce commodities that will make our nation less dependent on foreign sources of fuel.
We are looking forward to working with the Governor in the coming year to craft solid plans for transportation and infrastructure improvements that will help us move our products from farm to market and secure the levees that house the water we depend on each day.
Everyone is aware that the Kelo decision gave the government authority to take by eminent domain, property from one person, to sell to another, for what government deems a better use. We are committed to changing that ruling.
As you can tell, this has been an interesting and challenging year, filled with major events and news headlines. Take a look...
Speaking of headlines... I'd like talk about spinach.
Actually no... I'd like to talk about our consumers.
Without our consumers there is no reason to grow our crops. Even though most of us work with processors to market our commodities, the end purchasers are families, neighbors and friends who need to know, with great confidence, that when they eat something as simple as a helping of vegetables, it will not make them sick.
This E. coli outbreak in spinach, though traced back to a limited growing area, will have a worldwide impact on all of us, and the decisions that are made to put enhanced safeguards in place, will have national implications.
I want to take a moment to recognize some of our Farm Bureau leaders who have been right out front on this issue. Richard Silva from San Benito County, Bob Martin and Bob Perkins from Monterey County.
We have long enjoyed the reputation of being the world's food safety leaders. These past months, as all of our state's spinach growers were asked to halt their harvests so that FDA and other health investigators could determine the cause of the outbreak, we all learned to practice patience by remembering who we serve.
We learned that we must refresh and re-check our farming practices so that we can continue to assure consumers that our food is safe. We must support with our voices and our dollars further research into reducing potential risks in all stages from the farm to the fork.
We must face the fact that it will take everyone to make our food safety reputation whole again. We must practice unity and uniformity 100 percent of the time. We must also collaborate in new ways with health and regulatory officials.
We will have to make some tough decisions in the coming weeks. This is not easy. With the investigation focusing on such a small number of farms why should we all have to work harder under even more stringent guidelines. Because of our consumers and the importance of regaining their trust. And because doing nothing is not an option, and we cannot sit back and let others decide our fate.
We have been working with growers, processors and scientists to define a program of best management practices for all elements of farm to fork that would apply to all leafy greens grown in our state. In this we are working hard to ensure that the needs of all size growers are accounted for. A draft plan is scheduled for public distribution soon. Many counties have been involved in the review process. Our board will be asked to decide what path we take on this issue.
That said let's talk about the folks we rely on to harvest the crops we bring to market. This year many of you stepped up to the plate to share your challenges with finding and maintaining labor for your harvests.
We know the need for immigration reform is a major concern...and we know that the current system is broken. As a specialty crop state, we are labor dependent. Many of you have experienced crop losses and harvest delays due to a shortage of workers and unless something is done I'm afraid the problems will only get worse.
There has to be a better way of controlling our borders while allowing foreign workers to fill jobs that Americans are unwilling to perform.
Our 2006 crop year was marked by a shortage of workers, crop loss and a lot of uncertainty. Even though most crop yields were below normal, many California farmers experienced labor shortages.
The challenges began last winter with too few workers to harvest the Navel orange crop and continued through this early fall when up to 30 percent of our late pear crop went un-harvested. We're worried about what will happen next year.
We tried to work through the challenges as a handful of our producers entered into H-2A arrangements. Using this program is so complex that many growers, after jumping through all of the hoops, and after repeated harassment and lawsuits by California Rural Legal Assistance, threw up their hands in frustration. It's clear the current H-2A program will not work adequately for everyone in California, which makes efforts at comprehensive reform all the more important. There have to be workable alternative programs.
We all agree that our borders must be secure, but we need to differentiate between people who cross the border to take advantage of our system, and those who come to perform needed work. A workable guest worker program would contribute to a secure and well-managed border. We need Congress to deal with this challenge before the next harvest.
We will also need Congress to recognize the viability of family farms and ranches as a national security issue, and as such reconsider its position on the death tax. Developments continue to unfold as we seek relief from the Death Tax. California faces greater challenges than ever in the coming year.
We now have a Democratic Congress that generally views the Death Tax as an Inheritance Tax on America's richest families. Unfortunately, due to our inflated land values, California's farms and ranches are included in that group. Although we have a few sympathetic allies, many other states do not experience the same problems we do, because they do not have the same development pressures.
Many of you may recall that last year, AFBF accepted a policy change that allowed them to endorse the $5 million per person exemption level. CFBF dissented from that policy, so now we have two different policies. CFBF's current policy states that we want full repeal.
Given the current political climate, we have to consider for ourselves, any and all options that remain on the table. We have a lot of issues to consider in the coming days: Do we continue the fight for full repeal? Can we successfully negotiate a package that might provide some relief for California's farmers & ranchers? Are we willing to consider any legislation that could provide relief from Death Taxes? Can we draft policy language that would allow us to have a place at the negotiating table?
We recently created a Death Tax working group to study this very critical issue in-depth. We are willing to commit the time and the resources necessary to develop workable solutions. Individuals on our working group have a special interest and passion in this issue. They have experienced the Death Tax on all levels and represent many regions and land values across the state. We have also solicited the support from industry experts to guide us through this process.
Before we get involved at Congress, we need direction from you, the delegate body. We need to know what you think the future holds for us and this issue. You will have the opportunity to provide that guidance during our policy development process in the next couple of days.
We can all work together to have our state representatives take into account agriculture's unique situation. As I stated before viable family farms and ranches are critical to national security. We cannot and we should not rely on other countries for our food production. We have to remain self-reliant. This issue is personal to each of us. Because it is a personal story, no one can tell it better than we can.
Building meaningful and valuable relationships is the key to protecting family farms and ranches for California and all states who share the responsibility of producing a safe, affordable and abundant food supply, on our own soil, so that we do not have to be dependent on other countries for our food, as we are with oil.
Face-to-face contacts with legislators and other stakeholders allow us to share real-life stories, your stories, of how decisions they make are applied.
After the recent elections, and with a whole host of new faces coming to the state's legislature and Congress, our work is going to get a little more difficult. Relationships are important and we will need to make sure that the new folks represent the best interest of you, our family farmers and ranchers.
This all means getting off the farm sometimes to talk to elected representatives at the local, state and national levels. When we meet with elected officials, we respectfully ask for their support. But we make it clear that we will be grading them on their efforts to protect our family farms and ranches. Our annual legislative report card illustrates which members of the Legislature truly care about maintaining our agricultural resources.
As we enhance our work with our state Capitol, Gov. Schwarzenegger and his administration, we will continue to make sure they understand the cumulative effect that state laws and regulations have on California family farms. We stood behind the Governor and were first to endorse him in his initial run for office, and we stood beside him at his celebration, as he was re-elected.
When your CFBF board of directors voted to engage in the political outreach campaign called the California Plan to Protect the Family Farm, we made sure that every piece of legislation we analyzed, every letter we wrote, every reporter we spoke to and every speech we were able to deliver conveyed our opposition of policies that would harm, or our support of policies that would help family farmers and ranchers. Our plan was based on ten broad policy areas as defined by our house of delegates.
We build our momentum through your involvement.
I applaud all of you for taking the time to choose an issue to stand for. We have many. When you share your personal stories the issues then have a face. I want to recognize just a few people who bravely stood before the media, the congress and other venues to share their very personal stories to benefit all of us.
Thank you all.
No annual meeting would be complete without talking about political engagement.
From driving tractors to city hall and down city streets to support the No Tractor Tax campaign... to hammering signs and supporting the Governor... and other candidates for election, Farm Team Members were our very own "Johnny on the Spots."
I would like to invite all Farm Team chairman and Farm Team members to stand. Let's give them a big round of applause.
In the coming year there will be many important decisions made... and as farmers and ranchers we have a key place in those discussions, so that our vast economic contributions are not overlooked.
Working together to create opportunities for growth and change allows us to work smarter to maintain our agricultural heritage. So today we celebrate and we thank you for all that you do, to add your face, to that which is Farm Bureau.
Whether you've been a member for several years or you're a "fresh face" of Farm Bureau, thank you for your support. You are the Faces of Farm Bureau--and it is our pleasure to serve you.
We created a special book that we will be giving you during your break... so that you can meet a few of the folks that inspired the theme of our Faces of Farm Bureau meeting this week. Each of these individuals and families took the time to meet with us and share a little bit of who they are. Many of them are here today... I would invite you to say hello.
Young and old. Seasoned and not-seasoned. We each bring a gift to Farm Bureau, and as we work collectively to touch those who do not know us, we make new friends and trusted allies who understand exactly what it means to preserve, protect and enhance the wonderful way of life we all hold dear.