Top Issues

Top Issues

Farming and ranching touches nearly every aspect of human activity and is always the subject of legislative and regulatory interest. Because of that, the California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect and promote agricultural interests throughout California and to find solutions to the problems of the farm, the farm home and the rural community. CFBF represents farmers and ranchers in venues including the state Capitol, the halls of Congress and the offices of state and federal regulatory agencies.

CFBF derives its strength from grassroots policy development. This assures Farm Bureau represents the collective interests of its members.

Animal Agriculture

No one has greater concern for the care and welfare of farm animals than the farmers and ranchers who raise them. CFBF represents farmers and ranchers on issues including animal health and welfare, stewardship of natural resources and economic viability of animal agriculture.

California’s livestock and poultry producers have a moral obligation to provide for the health and welfare of their animals. Producers want to ensure that antibiotics remain effective and available to maintain healthy and productive animals to prevent and treat animal diseases and infections. Producers recognize the importance of maintaining effective antibiotics both for use in human medicine and to treat their animals. They are committed to taking an active role in the efforts being made to reduce antibiotic resistance on State and National levels.

In 2015 the state Legislature passed and the Governor signed SB 27 (Hill), which created new requirements for livestock producers using antibiotics to treat and prevent diseases in their animals. Starting in 2018, all livestock producers treating their animals with medically important antibiotics will need either a prescription or veterinary feed directive from their veterinarian. The law also defines when antibiotics can be used to prevent disease in livestock, and allows the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to work with the Veterinary Medical Board and UC Cooperative Extension to create educational programs to improve the effective use of antibiotics to treat, prevent, and control diseases. It also requires CDFA to design and implement a monitoring system that will be coordinated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration’s implementation of the expanded national antibiotic tracking program under the National Animal Health Monitoring System and National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System. These monitoring systems will be expanded to increase tracking of antibiotic use, resistance, and management practices to increase understanding of resistance patterns and trends.

CDFA is working to implement the requirements of the new law. This will include: adopting regulations to define the process for antibiotic sales at feed stores and similar locations that are not licensed as pharmacies, designing a monitoring system to monitor antibiotic resistance in livestock and poultry in California, and developing training materials to promote the judicious use of antibiotics in livestock.

The monitoring system will work with willing participants and data collected is required to be kept confidential and can only be released publicly if it is aggregated to prevent the identification of individual farms and ranches. A monitoring report is due to the Legislature by January 1, 2019.

Commodity Production & Marketing

California farmers and ranchers grow an unmatched variety of food and farm products for people in the U.S. and worldwide. CFBF seeks to improve the regulatory climate for marketing agricultural products. CFBF works with its members and other organizations to help people understand where their food comes from and to enhance confidence in California-grown products.

FSMA, signed into law in 2011, marks a significant change to the federal government’s role in ensuring a safe food supply for both humans and animals. Farmers and ranchers take great care in their obligation to provide consumers and animals with safe food and feed. There are areas of FSMA that are necessary, such as improving food safety protocols on food imports. However, CFBF has concerns about the sweeping nature of FSMA that will create a tremendous regulatory burden as the federal government attempts to micromanage food production.

The Farm Bill authorizes for five years hundreds of federal farm programs and laws that aim to benefit agriculture and improve nutrition in the United States. Where the agricultural portion of the Farm Bill in previous decades mostly focused on five commodities, the Farm Bill now covers conservation, forestry, specialty crops, rural development, crop insurance, research and other areas critical to agricultural and rural life. The CFBF Federal Economy & Farm Policy Issue Advisory Committee is currently developing priorities for the future Farm Bill.


Farmers and ranchers must have a reliable and affordable supply of energy to produce food and farm products efficiently and sustainably. CFBF represents farmers and ranchers before the state Public Utilities Commission to ensure fair and reasonable agricultural energy rates and encourages the responsible development of renewable energy.

Biomass plants throughout the state, which generate electricity from wood waste, have been and continue to be idled because of expiring contracts with utilities for the purchase of electricity. Without the operation of the plants, the ability to dispose of wood waste from the management of forests, agricultural and urban sources will be severely constrained. The plants typically need waste from all sources to operate effectively. The closure of the plants is occurring at a time when drought conditions have dramatically increased the amount of wood waste.

The following link sets out general information about current agricultural rates and anticipated changes to those rates in the upcoming year for the four utilities regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC): Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison Co., San Diego Gas and Electric Co. and PacifiCorp. Recognizing that agricultural customers' usage characteristics vary widely within each utility, the average rates are shown as a way to provide benchmarks by which customers might gauge how changes may impact costs for their electric usage. The CPUC docket numbers are referenced after each description where appropriate.

CFBF is encouraged and pleased to participate in the planning process and discussion of potential screens or criteria for siting of solar PV electrical power facilities in the San Joaquin Valley.


California farmers and ranchers care for the land and environment on which they depend. Encroaching environmental regulations threaten the balance between agricultural production and effective stewardship of wildlife, plants, air, water and soil. CFBF works to find solutions to environmental issues that ensure a thriving and enduring agricultural way of life.

The California Air Resources Board is making $135 million available under its Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions, or FARMER, program. The funds available through the FARMER program provide significant assistance to California farmers who face the most stringent air quality requirements in the nation. Farmers can apply to their local air districts to receive funding for voluntary agricultural vehicle and engine replacements.

The FARMER program provides funding for:
  • Heavy-duty truck replacements
  • Mobile off-road farm equipment replacements
  • Agricultural irrigation pump replacements
  • Zero-emission agricultural all-terrain vehicles (ATVs)
  • Off-Road Mobile Agricultural Equipment Trade-Up Pilot Project (only available in the San Joaquin Valley)
For more information or to apply for funds contact your local air district.


More often than not, farmers and ranchers manage wildlife as an extension of their agricultural activities, understanding their responsibility to care for the land for both social and personal reasons, including the desire to pass the land on to their children in a better condition.

CFBF continues to seek funds in the state and federal appropriations processes to augment efforts to combat pests and diseases. Funds are used for exclusion activities at our ports and border inspection facilities as well as on the ground through a variety of detection methods.

Tricolored Blackbirds are a species whose main range is within California. Historically they have nested in Central Valley wetlands, but have adapted to nest in winter silage fields grown on or near dairies. They typically nest in the Southern San Joaquin Valley between March and May and move northwards to nest again in the Sacramento Valley between May and June. For the remainder of the year Tricolored Blackbirds can be found in many areas of California in mixed flocks of different blackbird species. A video about Tricolored Blackbirds and their nesting behavior on dairies can be found here.

In 2015 Farm Bureau partnered with Audubon California, Dairy Cares, Sustainable Conservation, Western United Dairymen, and US Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain a grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The grant dedicates funds through 2019 to pay farmers with Tricolored Blackbirds nesting in their grain fields a significant portion of the lost value of the crop. Funds are also available to pay for natural habitat development to create more native habitat for Tricolored Blackbirds.

In April 2018 the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) voted to list the Tricolored Blackbird as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). Farm Bureau testified before the Commission against the listing.

During the Tricolored Blackbird’s candidacy period Farm Bureau recognized the impact the listing has on dairies that provide habitat in their silage fields for the birds and worked with dairy organizations to get a regulation adopted that allows incidental take of the species in limited circumstances. The regulation authorizes take of Tricolored Blackbirds incidental to the harvest of grain fields and related agricultural activities on farms that agree to participate in the harvest management program to protect the nesting colony. Now that they are listed as threatened, Farm Bureau will work to create a Safe Harbor Agreement to provide similar protections for farmers who agree to delay harvest and protect nesting colonies.

The harvest management program is administered by NRCS and provides funds to cover the lost value in the silage crop due to the harvest delay. To participate, farmers agree to have a biologist inspect the colony and identify both the area utilized for nesting by the colony as well as the estimated date that the young will leave the nests. They must agree to establish a buffer zone around the colony if they choose to harvest areas of the field containing nesting Tricolored Blackbirds not inhabited by the colony and agree to delay harvesting the area colonized until after the young have left the nests.

Anyone who suspects they have Tricolored Blackbirds nesting on their farm should contact their local NRCS office for more information about the harvest management program.

Forestry & Public Lands

Many of California’s rural communities rely on wise multiple use of public lands and a healthy timber economy. Grazing, logging, recreation and other activities on public and private lands benefit California’s economy and environment. CFBF encourages active forest management and continued access to public lands.


California’s diverse agricultural production relies upon skilled people in year-round and seasonal jobs. Farmers and ranchers face very real challenges in ensuring they can hire from among a reliable, stable and legal workforce. CFBF seeks to improve labor policies affecting agriculture and to provide farmers and ranchers with information on existing laws and regulations.

CFBF encourages worker health and safety training programs to prevent farm worker injury and illness.

CFBF supports a bipartisan compromise that creates a visa program for the entry of a foreign legal workforce to work in agriculture, and that allows those currently experienced yet unauthorized agricultural workers who pay a fine and pass a background check to continue working in agriculture.

Land Use

Land use planning must recognize that agriculture makes a valuable economic and environmental contribution. Local planning should control urban sprawl and protect agricultural resources. CFBF works to minimize rural-urban conflicts, protect agricultural land and preserve property rights.

Rural Crime

Chronic problems with rural crime highlight the need for increased communication between local law enforcement agencies and the agricultural community. Vandalism and theft of farm equipment, chemicals, livestock and crops harm farmers, ranchers and rural communities. CFBF encourages efforts to reduce rural crime and illegal dumping.

Taxation & Budget

The high cost of doing business in California often puts the state’s farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage. CFBF encourages budget reforms to end excessive government spending and to overturn taxes disguised as “fees.”

We support full repeal of the estate tax which creates a daily burden for farm families who face steep planning costs. Until repeal can be achieved, we support:

  • Agriculture Exclusion - Efforts to exclude from the estate tax legitimate, long-term farmers and ranchers who intend to continue their operations into the future.
  • Property Valuation - Raising the property valuation amount allowed in § 2032A to match the current $5 million estate tax exemption. This allows farms to value their property at its agricultural use value instead of the market value.
  • Keeping Farms in Production - Providing relief to the transferee of an agricultural estate who is unable to settle a tax bill without selling agricultural land to satisfy the debt.


CFBF places a high priority on supporting effective agricultural research and development of technologies to continue improving the quality, convenience, safety and production efficiency of California-grown food and farm products.

An agreement signed by representatives of California farmers and farm-equipment dealers will make it easier for farmers to diagnose and repair equipment without accessing or downloading proprietary software or code. Learn more:

CFBF strongly supports farmers’ ability, statewide, to use biotechnology to enhance the quality and marketability of food and farm products, and to address environmental and health concerns. We continue to encourage development of new varieties using biotechnology that offer enhanced nutrition, better adaptation to climate change and more efficient use of water and fertilizer.

Drones can be a valuable tool for farmers managing their operations and there are many technological developments occurring on a regular basis. CFBF seeks a balance between access to drones for agricultural purposes and privacy and trespass protection on private lands. We want to see notification and consent of landowners prior to drones flying above private property.

There has not been significant federal action to address concerns raised regarding the proliferation of drones used for numerous purposes. Due to that fact, the California Legislature introduced numerous bills on the topic during the 2016 Legislative Session. These bills are:

Trade & Transportation

People throughout the state, nation and world depend on receiving California-grown crops and commodities. CFBF supports fair trade agreements that open or expand markets for California products and provide jobs and economic activity in urban and rural California. To continue moving agricultural products to market, CFBF advocates for improvements to transportation infrastructure.

California farmers and ranchers stand to gain from full ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations that includes large trading partners Canada, Japan and Mexico, as well as growing markets such as Vietnam and Malaysia. With Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) now in place, CFBF urges the passage of the TPP agreement as negotiated.

The agricultural intrastate cargo securement exemption has been extended for another year by the California Highway Patrol commissioner, until April 30, 2019, or until federal regulations are adopted.

Carriers who do not have an exemption letter from the CHP must apply using the forms on the CFBF website. Below, you'll find the information and forms needed to apply.

Those who have already applied for and received the exemption letter in previous years will automatically receive another extension through April 30, 2019, provided they carry a copy of the letter they received from the CHP in their vehicle and continue with their monthly reporting requirements.

Background information

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) approved the Truck and Bus regulation in December 2008 and has made several major changes since that time. The last set of changes were approved by the ARB April 25, 2014.

Six sections of information are provided with greater detail in the More Info link below. The first section describes the rule as it applies to agricultural vehicles. The other five sections provide basic information about other compliance options if you did not previously register your vehicle as an agricultural vehicle.

Please note, the ability to register a vehicle with ARB as an agricultural vehicle closed on January 31, 2015. Registering as an agricultural vehicle is no longer an option if you did not register before the 2015 deadline.

There are numerous other compliance options beside the Agricultural Mileage provision. The options listed below are the ones most commonly used by the agricultural community but, as noted, only a few of them are still available. If none of these compliance options fits your needs, general compliance information about the truck and bus rule using the engine model schedule is in the sixth section.

  1. Agricultural Mileage Extension—Closed to registration
  2. Low-Use Vehicle Option—Still available
  3. Log Truck Option—Closed to registration
  4. NOX Exempt Option—Still available for limited trucks
  5. Low-Mileage Work Truck Option—Some limited use still available to specific trucks
  6. General Engine Model Year Compliance Schedules for Light and Heavy Trucks—Still Available

More Info


Farmers’ improvements in water use efficiency have continually increased the amount of “crop per drop” produced on California farms. At the same time, the state’s growing population and tightening environmental regulations have placed greater stress on the state’s existing water supply. CFBF works to expand water supply while protecting water rights, assuring water quality and advocating for flexible water management.

Unimpaired Flow Standards (San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers)

The State Water Resources Control Board is updating the Sacramento-San Joaquin River BayDelta Water Quality Control Plan—a review of water quality standards, including instream flow requirements. As part of the multiyear, phased update, board staff proposes significant increases in river flows intended to benefit protected fish. CFBF considers the proposals for unimpaired flows to be excessive and unnecessary—particularly in light of superior “functional flow” and “non-flow” alternatives developed by local districts to increase fish populations while ensuring the reasonable and beneficial use of available water resources for all purposes. Learn more:

Agricultural, water, business coalition letter to state water board (7/27/18)

General Information Regarding Water Board’s Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan Update

Statewide Perspective

Sacramento Valley and Eastern Delta Tribs Info

San Joaquin Tributary Flows Info


The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 was created to regulate the discharge of pollutants and create water quality standards for surface waters in the United States.

In mid-2015, the Environmental Protection Agency, which administers the CWA, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released their Final Rule redefining the “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) that are subject to federal regulation under the CWA. EPA claims the final Clean Water Rule, or “WOTUS Rule,” clarifies the definition of “waters of the U.S.” to better protect our water supply.

The new rule became effective in August 2015 and is currently suspended as part of a nationally-imposed court injunction. Should the stay be lifted, which could happen at any time, it would become more difficult to farm or ranch, or change a farming operation to remain competitive and profitable. Additionally, the new WOTUS definition creates more jurisdictional waters regulated by EPA, expands the already complex permitting process to more lands and, overall, will increase the economic burden for farm families and future generations. For these reasons and more, the rule has to be rescinded, whether in the courts or by the legislature.

SGMA – The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA) requires most areas that rely heavily on groundwater to develop and implement a plan to ensure each basin will be sustainably managed during the next 50 years. SGMA is the most significant change to water law in a century and will significantly impact farmers and ranchers throughout California.

The Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Regional Boards) regulate discharges from irrigated agricultural lands to surface water and groundwater through the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program. Regional Boards issue waste discharge requirements (WDRs) or conditional waivers of WDRs (Orders) to growers. These Orders contain conditions such as requiring water quality monitoring waters, implementation of best management practices, and corrective actions when impairments are found.

(Scroll to “Region-Specific Program Information” section for information specific to each Regional Board’s program.)