March 22, 2017
After the federal Central Valley Project reported today it expects to deliver only 65 percent of contract water supplies to its agricultural water contractors south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said the announcement shows how operation of the state’s water system remains in need of an overhaul.
“In the alternate universe of California water, we can have floods, full reservoirs and a huge snowpack and still not have full water supplies. It boggles the mind,” Wenger said.
“Operation of our water system remains out of whack. We need to continue efforts to improve and expand the system,” he said. “In Congress, passage of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act last year marked an important step in addressing the system’s inadequacies. Congress must now follow through with measures such as Rep. David Valadao’s Gaining Responsibility on Water Act, which would offer longer-term ability to store and move water.”
Wenger said farmers and ranchers will also press Congress to modernize endangered-species laws, “to balance the goals of environmental restoration with the ability to provide the resources needed to grow food and farm products.”
At the state level, he said, California must move as quickly as possible to invest money from the Proposition 1 water bond into storage projects that provide the state with more ability to store water in wet winters such as this.
“Improved storage capacity, both above and below ground, is crucial to California’s long-term ability to withstand droughts, protect against floods and gain the flexibility needed to allow people and the environment to thrive,” Wenger said.
March 7, 2017
The Leadership Farm Bureau Class of 2017—formally introduced today—has begun a year-long series of activities and training sessions focused on issues affecting California agriculture. The nine Farm Bureau members in this year’s class appeared at the annual California Farm Bureau Federation Leaders Conference in Sacramento.
The Leadership Farm Bureau program, sponsored by CFBF, includes six intensive sessions on relevant agricultural issues plus field-studies trips to both Northern and Southern California. Class members participate in personal-development, teambuilding and communications training, and advocate on behalf of Farm Bureau in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
This year’s class includes:
The Leadership Farm Bureau class will complete its program of activities in December, with graduation during the CFBF Annual Meeting in Garden Grove. For further information about the program, see www.cfbf.com/lfb.
Feb. 28, 2017
Welcoming President Trump’s executive order for review of a disputed Clean Water Act rule, the president of the California Farm Bureau Federation said he hopes today’s action leads to a more cooperative approach to environmental regulation.
“California farmers and ranchers pride themselves in the care they show for the land, water and other resources entrusted to them,” CFBF President Paul Wenger said. “We want to work cooperatively to maintain and improve our land, not to be subject to confusing and sometimes contradictory rules from government agencies.
“We’re encouraged by the Trump administration’s action to roll back the ‘waters of the United States’ rule,” Wenger said. “At the same time, we recognize the executive order as the first step in what could be a long process to undo the confusion brought by the WOTUS rule.
“Ultimately, the goal should be to provide farmers and ranchers—in California and elsewhere—the freedom to farm their land productively and with environmental certainty, while pursuing compliance with the Clean Water Act through incentives rather than coercion.”
Feb. 28, 2017
Today’s water supply announcement from the federal Central Valley Project shows the resiliency of nature and the limitations of California’s water supply system, according to the president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. After a wintertime recovery in precipitation, CFBF President Paul Wenger said “it’s a shame” the CVP can’t assure full water supplies to all of its customers.
“Just look at the numbers,” Wenger said. “The Sierra snowpack stands at 186 percent of average. Most key reservoirs hold higher-than-average supplies for the time of year. If the CVP can’t assure full supplies to all of its customers this year, what would be needed for that to happen?
“We understand this is a fish-first system now,” he continued, “because federal fisheries agencies have the first and last call on CVP water. We know the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act that Congress passed last year will help. But we obviously need to take further action to modernize our water system, our laws and our policies.
“One wet year won’t erase our long-term surface water deficit, and the current fish-first policies have also harmed groundwater supplies—an impact that is both serious and inexcusable.
“Farm Bureau remains committed to achieving a water system that benefits both our environment and our economy. We believe that can be achieved and we believe we can learn from wet years such as this one as well as from dry years. We will continue to work with elected representatives and agency officials with that goal in mind.”
Feb. 21, 2017
Strong storms during the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend flooded farm fields, caused several dairy farms to relocate their animals and brought other impacts on California farms and ranches. The storms also added more water to an already overtaxed system, and led to renewed calls to modernize the system.
“In the long term, the surge of storms should bring an improved water outlook,” California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said, “but it has definitely brought worries to farmers and ranchers whose land is inundated or whose crops may be at risk. We remain hopeful that weather in coming days will minimize any problems.”
Wenger noted that many reservoirs have filled and have had to release water, which underlines the need to enhance California’s water storage capacity.
“Believe it or not, there are people who think we don't need more water storage, and that we should even tear down many of the facilities we now have,” he said. “These activists don't care how many people suffer from devastating floods in winters like this. They don't care how many people suffer from water shortages during droughts.”
Wenger said California must move as quickly as possible to allocate money from the 2014 water bond, Proposition 1, to create more storage both aboveground and underground.
“Environmentalists say we can solve water problems by conserving more water and storing more underground. But we’re not able to conserve most of the water flowing through the system now—we have had to let it go. And moving water into the ground takes time. You can’t replenish groundwater if you don’t have aboveground reservoirs and canals to hold and move water to where it can effectively filter underground,” Wenger said.
Farm Bureau said farmers of a number of crops and commodities will be assessing the impact from the weekend storms, including:
• Almonds—The storms hit just as almond trees were blooming. Bees that pollinate almond blossoms don’t fly in the rain and prefer temperatures higher than 55 degrees. In addition, a number of almond trees were blown down by strong winds during the weekend. But farmers said the tree losses weren’t as bad as feared, and expressed hope pollination would still be successful.
• Berries—The rains delayed strawberry harvest along the Central and Southern California coast. Production may be temporarily reduced as farmers wait for waterlogged fields to dry and discard rain-damaged berries.
• Dairy farms—Several dairy farms located near the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers needed to move their animals to higher ground as river levels rose. Other farmers are watching river levels carefully and preparing to move their animals if needed.
• Field crops—Fall-planted grain crops that have germinated could take on too much water, which could ultimately reduce yields. Hay fields have also flooded. Soggy or flooded fields will delay planting for a number of crops.
• Grapes—Vineyards in various grape-growing regions have been flooded. Farmers say that could leave vines vulnerable to root-rot damage if they remain flooded for too long.
• Vegetables—Rains and muddy fields slowed vegetable harvest in Southern California and delayed planting in the Salinas Valley. Rain generally benefited vegetable crops in the Imperial Valley.
• Walnuts—Flooded orchards that remain waterlogged for too long could be vulnerable to root diseases that can kill trees.
• Miscellaneous—Heavy rains in foothill regions have washed out privately maintained roads, making it hard for cattle ranchers to reach their animals, and muddy pastures limit ranchers’ ability to reach herds on horseback. Pear orchards in Lake County have been flooded. Citrus fruit harvest was temporarily delayed. The storms brought large amounts of rain to Santa Barbara County farmers who have remained in severe drought. One farmer there reported losing about half an acre of avocado trees to a mudslide.
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
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. 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. 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.
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