Dairyfest Recognizes June as Dairy Month
Over 350 guests, including legislators and staff, joined Ag Council’s dairy members for the second annual Dairyfest event. Dairyfest is an ice cream social at the State Capitol in Sacramento recognizing June as Dairy Month and celebrating California’s dairy producers. The event is sponsored by Ag Council’s three dairy members California Dairies Inc., Dairy Farmers of America and Land O’Lakes.
Thank you to the legislators who attended Dairyfest, including: Assemblyman Alejo, Assemblywoman Brown, Assemblyman Dahle, Assemblyman Chu, Assemblyman Cooper, Assemblyman Perea, Senator Anderson, Senator Cannella, Senator Wieckowski, and Senator Nguyen. Ag Council extends a special thank you to our legislative sponsors, Assemblyman Perea and Assemblyman Cannella, for their support.
Legislators had an opportunity to speak with our dairy members directly, and the event was a great opportunity to raise the profile of Ag Council, as well as highlight the importance of the dairy community in California. Dairyfest also gave members a chance to talk about the positive economic impact of dairy in California.
Ag Council appreciates the volunteer help provided by a group of high school students in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program from Lodi High School who spent the afternoon assisting with Dairyfest by helping set-up, serve ice cream and clean-up after the event. Two dairy princesses from Escalon were also in attendance and helped greet attendees.
Thank you to our dairy members who helped make Ag Council’s Dairyfest a successful outreach event.
Ag Council Members Gather in San Francisco for 96th Annual Meeting
More than 160 agricultural business leaders met in San Francisco last week to discuss key issues impacting California’s number one industry during Agricultural Council of California’s (Ag Council) Annual Meeting, which was held in conjunction with CoBank’s Pacific West Customer conference.
“The need for an organization like Ag Council has never been greater,” said Rich Hudgins, whose 2-year term as Ag Council’s chairman concluded at this meeting. Hudgins is the current president and CEO of the California Canning Peach Association. Brendon Flynn, general manager of Pacific Farms based in Gerber, will assume the Ag Council chairmanship role in May.
In his opening remarks at the Ag Council Delegate Body Meeting, Hudgins said, “2014 was both challenging and rewarding for our membership. Challenging—because of the myriad of issues we faced, including the historic drought that is ongoing. Rewarding—because we have seen our organization continue to grow. Our success at Ag Council is sometimes difficult to measure as our metrics revolve around our ability to educate legislators and regulators. Oftentimes a win is simply avoiding an adverse outcome; however, the tireless work of our board and our staff has allowed us to continue to make important strides in Sacramento.”
During the Delegate Body Meeting, President Emily Rooney updated the membership about Ag Council’s accomplishments during the past year. The organization has had three years of consecutive membership growth, and has added additional staff to aid in strategic development.
Rooney highlighted some of Ag Council’s advocacy efforts, as well as legislative work, including the passage of Propositions 1 and 2—the water bond and rainy day fund measures—and the ongoing efforts that will now ensue with implementation.
In looking ahead to future challenges, Rooney discussed the precedent-setting groundwater legislation that was signed by Governor Brown during the last session. “We know that we need to protect this precious resource that our entire industry relies on, but the manner in which this legislation passed was just unacceptable. The experience highlights just how small agriculture’s voice is in the Capitol, and how we have to be creative in how we engage with policy makers,” she said.
In her address, Rooney also discussed other political interests and the level of funding that they devote to campaign contributions—agriculture collectively spends about $3 million during an election cycle, which is considerably less than other advocacy groups that spent five times as much in a single year. The political landscape and agriculture’s minority position when it comes to voter registration means that Ag Council will continue to work aggressively with moderate lawmakers regardless of party to ensure a positive business environment for agriculture.
More information about Ag Council’s advocacy efforts can be found in the 2014 Impact Report, which the organization released during the 96th Annual Meeting. The full report can be accessed at the Ag Council web site (www.agcouncil.org).
Annual Meeting Highlights
The Ag Council Annual Dinner on March 2, featured keynote speaker Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto). “This year we are faced with the ongoing challenge of sustaining our water supply. This is the number one crisis facing us in the state of California today, and it is connected to so many of our other problems—job growth being the most important. Economic recovery in California is not a reality as long as we continue to face a drought. We have to keep the water crisis top of mind with not just legislators, but with every-day consumers.”
During the General Session held the following day, water continued to be the primary focus. The session, which was skillfully moderated by Jackson Gualco of The Gualco Group, featured Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board; David Gutierrez, program manager for the Department of Water Resource’s Groundwater Sustainability Program; and Gordon Fowler, founder of 3fold Communications, a multi-million dollar marketing agency with clients in 25 states.
Marcus’ presentation focused on the array of challenges associated with the drought, and the water needs of California’s residents. Drawing on her past experience as the head of the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, Marcus said one of the biggest challenges is the lack of understanding among urban water users about the source of their water and food supplies.
“We are all Californians, and we are all in this together; however, the average consumer doesn’t always understand that dynamic. They do not understand that their connection to you as food providers is really much closer than their connection to their next door neighbors.”
Marcus’ other overriding point during her address was that California’s water challenges will not be solved by just one silver bullet. “If people think we can just conserve, recycle and storm water capture our way out of this, they are wrong,” she said. “And, if they think that building new surface storage in and of itself will solve the problem, they are also wrong. It will take all of these efforts to come to a solution and give us what we all want—a vibrant economy where we get the most use out of every drop of water possible for the most interests.”
The water theme continued with a presentation from David Gutierrez who is currently serving as the program manager overseeing the Department of Water Resources’ Groundwater Sustainability Program. During the Ag Council General Session, he outlined implementation plans for the new groundwater legislation. He also stressed that a multi-pronged approach is critical, and groundwater is only one component to the overall management of water use in California.
Gutierrez’s presentation outlined the timeline and deliverables that are being mandated by the measure that was passed in September 2014. “This legislation acknowledges that groundwater is best managed at the local and regional level due to the inherent differences in regional groundwater supplies, but we also have a pretty ambitious timeline in which we are supposed to see some results,” he added.
If those timelines are not met, then the State Water Resources Control Board will step in to ensure that individual regions are held accountable. “Some areas are very sustainable currently, while others are not. Problems associated with groundwater use did not happen overnight, so while we need the infrastructure to be in place quickly, complete solutions will not happen overnight.”
Gordon Fowler, founder of 3fold Communications closed out the General Session with an engaging presentation discussing the nuances of relating to and understanding four different generations—Civics (often referred to as the Greatest Generation), Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. Using humor, Fowler illustrated how global and national events, as well as pop culture and the evolution of family structures shaped each generation’s views towards purchasing decisions.
Understanding the differences can help facilitate how to effectively communicate in a way that is most engaging with members of each generation. “Every consumer always asks ‘what’s in it for me,’” says Fowler. Comparing how he might interact with his 90-year-old mother to how he interacts with his 20-year-old son as a personal example, Fowler demonstrated how his communication style would change. “In our personal lives it’s easy for us to recognize that it’s easier to text my son and call my mother if I expect a response, but in our professional lives we oftentimes use a ‘one size fits all’ approach that really isn’t effective.”
Golf Tournament and PAC Fundraiser
The Ag Council Golf Tournament and PAC Fundraiser was held at the remarkable TPC Harding Park course, which is set to host the World Golf Championships–Cadillac Match Play in April and May 2015. Over 50 players participated in the tournament. Congratulations to this year’s tournament winners: Mike Emigh, Glen Goto, Carl Hoff, and Ken Shinkawa. They are the first team to take home the new perpetual Golf Tournament trophy and will have their names engraved onto the trophy.
California Cultivator Award
Ag Council’s portion of the meeting concluded with a luncheon that honored Mike Emigh as the recipient of the 2015 California Cultivator Award. Emigh was president of Valley Fig Growers, a grower-owned marketing cooperative of dried figs located in Fresno, Calif. from 1997 to 2013. He had been with the coop since 1984 where he first served as vice president of finance.
Since moving to the San Joaquin Valley in 1978, Emigh was heavily involved in agriculture in both his career that began with Sun-Maid Growers of California, and his civic work. He has served as chairman of Ag Council and is a past chairman of the California Fig Advisory Board. He also currently serves on the DFA of California Board.
“As chairman of Ag Council, Mike was critical to the successful transition between our executive presidents, setting us on the path that has brought us to our current success,” said Rich Hudgins during the award presentation. “Simply put, Mike was the right guy, in the right place at the right time for this organization.”
During his tenure at Valley Fig Growers, Mike was instrumental in creating a more environmentally friendly footprint for the plant. An anaerobic digester was installed to reduce the amount of wastewater the facility discharged into the City of Fresno’s sewer system, freeing up sewer capacity to accommodate the equivalent of 2,500 homes. The digester also produces biogas, which is used to heat water for plant operations. Under Emigh’s management, the facility’s energy requirements were further mitigated with the installation of a solar array that provides 60 percent of its electrical power needs.
In accepting his award, Emigh described his roots in agriculture, growing up on a farm in Kansas, and then moving with his family to Nevada. “I love agriculture. The people who produce our food are the salt of the earth,” said Emigh after accepting his award. “I am very proud of my involvement in this industry, and especially my time involved with Ag Council. It has been one of the most fulfilling times of my career.”
Ag Council Holds Annual Legislative Day
More than 20 Ag Council members met with state leaders and elected officials in June 2014 in Sacramento to discuss issues critical to agriculture. Attendees of this year’s Legislative Day represented a diverse array of commodities and allied industries.
California’s drought and ongoing water challenges dominated the morning session, which included a briefing from Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross and DeeDee D’Adamo who serves on the State Water Resources Control Board.
A group of Ag Council members at the State Capitol on Legislative Day.A group of Ag Council members at the State Capitol on Legislative Day.
“For the farmers and ranchers who are ‘on the ground,’ it is hard to see how far we have come in seeing cooperation among agencies,” Ross said. “All of our efforts are driving towards a comprehensive goal that pairs groundwater and surface water. While we hope to see some recovery during the fall of 2014, we have to plan conservatively and be prepared for the potential of a fourth year of below-average precipitation.”
Ross emphasized that the communication and collaboration between state agencies helped develop solutions to the immediate crisis and has helped shape more long-lasting conservation strategies that, if implemented, will prepare the state for the ongoing issue of limited water supplies.
During her remarks, Secretary Ross also touched on the budget process and the role that the California Department of Agriculture (CDFA) plays in securing California’s valuable export markets. “Proportionally, our department has suffered more cuts than anyone else, so we have streamlined and focused on our core purpose—protecting California agriculture,” she said. “The current administration recognizes the fiscal importance of your industry and will continue to support those critical services CDFA offers related to invasive pest species and inspection.”
DeeDee D’Adamo, who has served on the State Water Resources Control Board since March 2013, also discussed the current drought situation and pending curtailments that many of the state’s water rights holders may be facing. “Our board has two priorities,” said D’Adamo. “We are here to promote water quality and to protect water rights.” She discussed the recent notifications regarding potential curtailments that have been sent to California water rights holders, and expressed her ongoing commitment to protecting agricultural water usage. “Unfortunately, there is just not a lot of water to ‘fight’ over right now, which makes this a very challenging time.”
Like many, D’Adamo believes because the drought has been so significant, the time is ripe for making critical, long-term investments in California’s future by developing increased storage and adopting other measures, including promoting water conservation among the general populace, as methods to ensure the state has enough water to supply its burgeoning population.
To prepare attendees for their legislative visits, Ag Council staff briefed participants on some of the most critical bills currently moving through the Legislature. Most notable are several water bond bills designed to replace the one that is currently on the November ballot. Ag Council supports the bipartisan measure, AB 2686 by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) and other Central Valley legislators, as it provides $3 billion in continuous funding specifically for water storage.
Ag Council members also visited with legislators about several pending labor bills that are duplicative of existing regulations and only increase the liability risk for California employers.
“Our Legislative Day is about building relationships,” said Emily Rooney, president of Ag Council. “These visits help legislators understand our positions on certain issues, but more importantly, they are an opportunity to connect our members’ farms and businesses with legislators and help them see their importance to their individual districts.” Ag Council members met with more than 19 elected officials and staffers during their Capitol visits.
In addition, Ag Council appreciates Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) who held a small private reception for Ag Council members, which was attended by several other legislators and provided an excellent opportunity for further outreach on the critical issues being discussed in the Capitol.
The evening concluded with a large reception, with over 80 attendees, at Chops Steak Seafood & Bar where more than 18 members of the Legislature and dozens of staff had a chance to visit with Ag Council members.
Ag Council Celebrates Ntl. Dairy Month at the Capitol
On June 10, Ag Council held a successful inaugural Dairyfest event, which was an ice cream social at the State Capitol in Sacramento recognizing National Dairy Month and celebrating California dairy producers. The event, attended by over 300 people, was sponsored by Ag Council’s three dairy members: California Dairies Inc., Dairy Farmers of America and Land O’Lakes.
Numerous legislators attended Dairyfest, including Speaker Atkins, Assemblyman Salas, Assemblyman Gray, Senator Nielsen, Assemblyman Pan, and Assemblyman Perea, among others. Salas, who was our legislative sponsor along with Senator Cannella, spent time serving ice cream to attendees, and we thank them for their help.
Many of the legislators had an opportunity to speak with our dairy members directly, and the event was a great opportunity to raise the profile of Ag Council and our members. Dairyfest also gave members a chance to talk about the positive economic impact of dairy in California.
Ag Council appreciates the volunteer help provided by a group of high school students in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program from Lodi High School who spent nearly two hours serving ice cream. A dairy princess from Modesto was also in attendance.
Thank you, again, to our dairy members–all of whom helped make Ag Council’s inaugural Dairyfest a great event.
Sowing the Seeds of Success at Ag Council’s Annual Meeting
Stormy weather was a welcome travel inconvenience for the more than 160 attendees who made their way to Huntington Beach, Calif. for the 95th Annual Meeting of the Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council) that was held in conjunction with CoBank’s Pacific West Customer meeting.
“Financially Ag Council has never been stronger,” said Rich Hudgins, 2014 chair of Ag Council and president and CEO of the California Canning Peach Association. “2013 has been a very good year for our organization with a dramatic increase in our membership base. In the words of Henry Ford, ‘Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; and working together is success.’ Farmer-owned cooperatives are the perfect example of the power of working together toward a common goal.”
95th Annual Meeting Highlights
Ag Council’s Annual Dinner on March 2, featured keynote speaker Senator George Runner (Ret.), and member of the State Board of Equalization. “This is a tough state to do business in,” said Runner during his remarks. “You are overtaxed and overregulated, so I have a great deal of gratitude for those of you who establish a business and stay in California.” Runner discussed his efforts on tax reform and his interest in seeing California taxpayers receive a fair benefit for the taxes they pay as part of his address.
Ag Council’s General Session the next day was moderated by Jackson Gualco, of The Gualco Group. Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, and a leading political and media strategist whose record includes work on four presidential and three gubernatorial campaigns was the first speaker of the day. Scnhur discussed the state’s political environment and predictions for the coming year.
Mike Kirkpatrick, a financial consultant for Nationwide Insurance’s Land as Your Legacy program outlined the challenges facing family farm businesses as they try to transition to the next generation. “Ninety-eight percent of farms are family-owned, but statistics show us that only a fraction of those successfully pass to subsequent generations,” he said. “Even when those businesses to make it to a second or third generation, there is often discord that occurs that threatens the fabric of a family.” As part of his presentation, Kirkpatrick offered several tips for easing that transition.
Dr. Patrick Lattore, president of PAL~Leadership, LLC closed out the Ag Council General Session with a presentation that challenged attendees to understand how business cultures, whether negative or positive, influence the ability to innovate and stay viable. “Our ability to lead is predicated on our ability to change ourselves and the culture we operate in,” he said. “To be successful as leaders, we have to be an example of change.”
Regulatory & Legislative Update
California’s historic drought was a key topic during the Annual Meeting, and was a primary focus of the organization’s advocacy work during the past year, according to Ag Council President Emily Rooney in remarks she made during her annual address.
“Given the state’s water crisis and the many pending regulations surrounding ground water, the top issues facing our membership heading into the coming year are related to water—both quality and quantity,” she said during her video remarks. “Proposed increases in several fees associated with water use have the potential to be very challenging to our members’ food production businesses.”
California’s historic drought has meant that Ag Council is also focusing a significant amount of its legislative efforts on water issues, according to Tricia Geringer, Vice President of Ag Council who addressed members during the group’s Delegate Body Meeting.
“The only silver lining to the fact that we’re in the driest year on record since the state first began keeping track in 1885, is that water shortages are touching every California resident personally,” said Geringer. “That means, as in the words of Governor Jerry Brown during his remarks to our members at the World Ag Expo in February, ‘the drought seems to have been a wake-up call to people regarding how critical water is to our state’s prosperity.’”
After declaring a drought State of Emergency in January, Governor Brown on March 1 signed legislation to help address immediate water shortages and other urgent drought needs. Most of the funding derives from existing bonds (Prop 84 and Prop 1E) with money going toward local and regional projects that are already planned or partially completed to boost water reliability.
“This is only the beginning of water-focused legislation that we will see in this session,” said Geringer. “There are also several state measures under consideration to revise the $11 billion water bond measure currently on the November ballot. Ag Council, along with other stakeholders, supports the effort to reduce the total bond amount, but is also seeking a $3 billion continuous appropriation for water storage projects. We will continue to emphasize a strong storage component in the water bond during our advocacy work because it is necessary to better prepare our state for future weather events.
Gray Allen Receives California Cultivator Award
A highlight of Ag Council’s 95th Annual Meeting was the presentation of the prestigious 2014 California Cultivator Award to Gray Allen, a public relations consultant who has dedicated his career to cooperatives, and more recently has been serving as a member of the Placer County Water Agency.
“Gray’s lifelong dedication to promoting and advancing the cooperative business model through his public relations work for Ag Council, then with California Canners and Growers, and now as a consultant to our coop makes him an ideal candidate for this award,” said Susan Brauner who nominated Allen for the Cultivator Award and serves as director of public affairs for Blue Diamond Growers. “He has been working tirelessly as an advocate for co-ops and farmer-owned businesses for 55 years, and continues to do so to the present day.”
Raised in New Orleans and educated in North Carolina and Arizona, Allen began his career in public relations in 1959, working with agricultural cooperatives in North Carolina and Arizona before moving to Sacramento in 1966 to accept a position with the Agricultural Council of California. From 1973 to 1983, he worked with California Canners and Growers, and from 1983 to 1989, with National Semiconductor Corporation in Santa Clara. In 1989, he started his consulting business based in Roseville, Calif.
“I am humbled to be receiving this award,” said Allen after being presented with the Cultivator Award by Rich Hudgins, current chairman of Ag Council and president and CEO of the California Canning Peach Association. “Farmers working together cooperatively to ensure their economic well-being has been a leading factor in the remarkable success of the American food industry. I am awed by what has been achieved and humbled by having witnessed it up close and personal.”
This special award is given to individuals who clearly have made significant contributions to agricultural cooperatives, or have demonstrated leadership and personal commitment to the industry. These contributions can be in areas such as proven leadership and dedication, innovation and/or environmental stewardship.
Thank You to our Sponsors
We appreciate the generous support of the following members and friends who helped make Ag Council’s 95th Annual Meeting a success.
Annual Meeting Sponsors
Fruit Growers Supply Company/Sunkist Growers
Blue Diamond Growers
Allied Grape Growers
North Valley Ag Services
Pacific Coast Producers
Sun-Maid Growers of California
Wells Fargo Insurance Services
Butte County Rice Growers Association
The Gualco Group, Inc.
Valley Fig Growers
Golf Tournament and PAC Fundraiser Sponsors
Blue Diamond Growers
Pacific Coast Producers
Raisin Bargaining Association
Sun-Maid Growers of California
Bank of the West
Central California Almond Growers Association
DFA of California
Eadie & Payne, LLP
Edgewood Partners Insurance Company
Farm Credit Leasing
Farmers’ Rice Cooperative
Griswold LaSalle Cobb Dowd & Gin LLP
Morrison & Company
Moss Adams LLP
Gov. Brown Speaks at Ag Council Breakfast
Ag Council hosted a breakfast at the World Ag Expo in Tulare in February 2014 featuring Governor Jerry Brown, High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard and California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross.
More than 90 people filled the room to hear the state leaders discuss current issues impacting agriculture in the Central Valley, including the drought and the California High-Speed Rail project that by 2029 is scheduled to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles, and eventually reach as far north as Sacramento.
Governor Brown explored the rail concept during his first term as governor from 1975 to 1983, and with the state’s population predicted to be more than 50 million by 2050, he believes the time is now to make the investment in the future of transportation in the Golden State.
Mandated by legislation passed in 1996, the California High-Speed Rail took on new momentum when in 2008 California voters passed a $10 billion bond measure to support its development.
The proposed route has been a point of controversy for ag interests concerned about the impact on farms and some of the most agriculturally productive areas in the nation.
Governor Brown made a few brief comments reiterating his support of the project and his desire to remain fiscally responsible during his term as governor. “California has a surplus for the first time in ten years,” said Brown, “and I am committed to not spending money in ways our state can’t afford. Unfortunately there are a lot of existing liabilities that we have to continue to fund.”
After opening the floor up to questions from attendees, the topic quickly shifted to the state’s drought situation and measures to address the severe water shortages that California is facing this year.
“There have only been two governors in the state’s history who have done much about water, and their last name was Brown,” said the governor in a nod to his father Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown who often cited the development of the California state water project as one of his most significant legacies.
“We have a very complicated system, but I’m trying to move forward,” said Brown. “We definitely need water storage; however, Californians have a very divided point of view on this issue. But, the drought seems to have been a wake-up to people up regarding how critical water is to our state’s prosperity.”
California High-Speed Rail Chairman Dan Richard provided the keynote address during the breakfast, and preceded Governor Brown on the agenda. Richard gave a detailed presentation regarding the future of the California High-Speed Authority and his desire to see the project move ahead as a solution to California’s burgeoning population and transportation challenges.
Admitting that the authority’s early interactions with the agricultural community have not always been good, Richard emphasized that his goal since being appointed as chairman in 2010 is to make sure that the authority accomplishes its mission of providing a long-term solution to California’s transportation issues.
“If we don’t pursue this project, we will need 2,300 more miles of highway lanes and airport expansions, all of which would be extremely difficult and two to three times more expensive than high-speed rail.”
The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s recently released revised business plan estimates that approximately 4,500 acres of agricultural land in the Central Valley will be impacted by the project. Richard contrasted that to the 50,000 acres that have been converted from ag use to urban development by the City of Fresno.
“We recognize that the threats to agriculture are real, but we also want to create a dialogue that helps farmers understand that the impact may not be as significant as has been portrayed, and that we will be mitigating for those losses,” he added. “Farm by farm, business by business, we are trying to avoid the negative impacts of the project where we can. Where we can’t avoid the impacts, we will mitigate.”
Responding to criticisms about the cost, Richard said that once established the California High-Speed Rail is meant to be self-sufficient from its own operating funds and that private sector dollars will be critical to the project’s success. “I feel that I had a decent reputation before I took this appointment, and I have no interest in being credited with a legacy of building a monument to stupidity,” he added.
The breakfast concluded with remarks from Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross who focused on the drought and emergency measures being put in place to address water shortages as well as related issues, such as the potential of higher unemployment in the state’s agricultural labor force.
“Unfortunately many of the constraints that limit our ability to respond quickly to real-time problems with real-time solutions are due to judicial rulings and court decisions that we must abide by,” Ross said. “Communication has been much better between the divergent interests, and many are recognizing that increased storage capacity helps all of our issues. We have thrived in this valley and in this state because people had a vision. We need to continue to encourage a willingness in our culture to invest in our legacy.”
A special thanks to Ag Council board member, Mike Emigh, who served as emcee during the Expo breakfast.
For more photos from the World Ag Expo breakfast event, click HERE.
Ag Council Holds Successful 94th Annual Meeting
Ag Council concluded a successful joint meeting with CoBank during March 2014 in Napa. Nearly 200 cooperative leaders and members met during Ag Council’s 94th Annual Meeting.
“Our organization is focused on cultivating change in Sacramento to create a better business environment for our membership,” Emily Rooney, Ag Council President, said. “Our annual meeting gives us a chance to continue that effort and update our members, both old and new, about the changes that have been happening with Ag Council and our political advocacy work.”The annual meeting kicked-off last week with the 2013 Golf Tournament and PAC Fundraiser held at the Chardonnay Golf Club. After breakfast, over 50 golfers enjoyed the picturesque course set amidst 150 acres of Chardonnay vineyards and several lakes. Ag Council thanks our board member and Golf Chairman, Mike Kelley with Central California Almond Growers Association, for his hard work in helping to coordinate the tournament.
The annual dinner featured Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) as the keynote speaker. Levine spoke about the importance of agriculture to his district and the value of working toward common goals.
“It is in everyone’s best interest to work for a common-sense approach in Sacramento,” Levine said. “If I can use pesticides as an example, it is my belief we need to regulate for safety, but we don’t need to put farmers out of business at the same time. For legislators to make a law without input from industry and those impacted is like cutting your own hair—you may like it, but you don’t know why everyone else is laughing at you. I truly believe that together, we can usher in a new golden era for agriculture in California.”
During the dinner, outgoing Ag Council Chairman Jon Marthedal recognized Ed Nishio, Vice President of CoBank, who will be honored by the California State Fair as the 2013 Agriculturalist of the Year. Marthedal also recognized Lee Ruth, former President of Ag Council, who will be inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame by the National Cooperative Business Association this May at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The following day, Ag Council President Emily Rooney provided an executive update during the delegate body meeting. “If there is anything you can count on, it is the inevitability of change. Our goal, however, is to make the changes we are experiencing in California’s political landscape a positive prospect for California’s farmer-owned businesses,” Rooney said.
“We’ve worked to accomplish that goal by advocating on critical issues such as two proposed labor laws that offered no benefit to workers and were redundant to previous measures,” Rooney said. “We had a win with the defeat of Proposition 37 and continue to reach out to elected officials that have historically been in districts outside of agriculture’s sphere of influence. The new political climate in Sacramento means that we can’t depend on solely on traditional allies, and we have to reach out to a new generation of lawmakers to help them understand the significance of agriculture in California.”
Rooney thanked outgoing Ag Council Chairman Jon Marthedal for his two years of outstanding service to the organization. Marthedal, a third-generation farmer and also Chairman of Sun-Maid Growers, will serve on the 2013-2014 Executive Committee as Immediate Past Chair. His successor, Rich Hudgins, will serve as Chairman of Ag Council over the next two years. Hudgins is President and CEO of the California Canning Peach Association.
The general session, which was moderated by Jackson Gualco of The Gualco Group Inc., included presentations from David Garfield, managing director of AlixPartners; Randy Fiorini, a farmer and vice-chair of the Delta Stewardship Council; and, Kish Rajan, director of GO-Biz the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
CoBank’s Pacific West Customer Meeting concluded the joint meeting with Ag Council and featured speakers Marci Rossell, Ph.D., a former chief economist for CNBC; David Feherty, CBS golf commentator; Peter Sheahan, entrepreneur and best-selling author; and James Conway, 34th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Yates Honored with CA Cultivator Award
During Ag Council’s 94th Ag Council Annual Meeting last week in Napa, A.J. Yates was awarded the 2013 California Cultivator Award (formerly the Cooperative Leader Award).
A farmer from Fresno County, Yates has served the agricultural community tirelessly in several top government appointments both at the state level with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and at the federal level as administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
Yates was appointed to CDFA by Governor Pete Wilson in 1991 and served eight years, first as Deputy Secretary and then as Under Secretary. In 2001, he was appointed administrator of AMS by President George W. Bush. In that role, he oversaw 50 programs designed to market U.S. agricultural products. Upon his return to California, Yates was again asked to serve at CDFA as Under Secretary by Governor Schwarzenegger. He concluded his career as Senior Policy Advisor in 2011.
Jon Marthedal, Ag Council Chairman and a third generation Fresno County farmer said, “I am honored to play a part in presenting this award to A.J. It is being presented on behalf of California agriculture, but also on behalf of those us from the San Joaquin Valley where agriculture is the heart of our identity. A.J. is an adopted son of the Valley who traveled to the ‘Big Leagues’ in his professional career and has been a great advocate for our industry.”
This special award is given to individuals who clearly have made significant contributions to California agriculture or have demonstrated leadership and personal commitment to the agricultural community. These contributions can be in areas such as proven leadership and dedication, innovation or environmental stewardship.
World Ag Expo Breakfast a Success
Former Assemblyman and current state Senate candidate, Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), spoke to over 40 Ag Council members and friends at Ag Council’s breakfast at the World Ag Expo in Tulare. Mendoza termed out of the Assembly last November and is now a State Senator comprising Artesia, Cerritos, Whittier, Downey and Buena Park among other cities outside of Los Angeles. Mendoza is the former Chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus.
With the changing demographics of the state, Ag Council is focused on building bridges with elected officials to help educate them on agricultural issues. Given this, Mendoza discussed how the agricultural community can best work to reach out to Latino legislators, as well as urban and suburban elected officials.
One of Mendoza’s suggestions was to extend an invitation to the families of legislators when they are invited on farm tours. This resonated with the audience because our families are a core part of the farming business.
In addition, he spoke about the party-politics that come into play in the Legislature and the political realities faced by elected leaders. Mendoza, who is a teacher, also discussed his core values, including family, as well as his desire to continue in public service.
We appreciate Tony Mendoza for sharing his insights, and we thank our members and friends for their attendance.