Leveraging our Strength

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Clockwise from left to right: Asm. Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), Asm. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Asm. Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) address Ag Council members at the Annual Dinner.

Leveraging Our Strength

by Emily Rooney


California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross

We had record attendance at our 97th Annual Meeting in Napa last week, and given our strong turnout, it is appropriate that this year’s meeting theme was “Leveraging our Strength.” It is also a fitting motto for our organization, as we are a small staff, but we have found effective ways to work cooperatively with members of both parties to protect agricultural businesses in California.

As our chairman Brendon Flynn said in his remarks, “Ag Council represents a wide breadth of agriculture and while we historically only represented just farmer cooperatives, we now embody all facets of agriculture, which makes us a unique and powerful voice in Sacramento.”

During my annual address, I discussed our organization’s work in building bridges with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. We have invested significant efforts in reaching out to moderates to help them understand the importance of agriculture to job growth and California’s economic health.


Left to right: Political Communication Specialists Tracy Sefl & Doug Heye and moderator Jackson Gualco of The Gualco Group, Inc.

Our message continues to be heard by many. While there are serious ongoing challenges for agriculture, including the need for more water storage and emerging issues with Proposition 65, I am optimistic about the changes occurring in the Legislature.

Further solidifying that opinion were some of the comments made by three members of the Moderate Democrats Caucus, or “Mod Dems,” who were keynote speakers during our Annual Dinner.  “We have to steer policies forward in a way that makes sense for farmers,” Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D-Napa) said. “The Legislature has not treated you like the breadbasket of the world that you are—that needs to change. The economic impact of California agriculture is undeniable, and we need to make sure your industry stays robust and sustainable.”

Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) and Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), co-chairs of the Mod Dems echoed those sentiments in their comments: “We all want a strong California and we all want a strong economy,” Salas said. “Your industry is key to our state’s economic viability and you do have champions [in the Legislature] that want to take a pragmatic approach.”

Member of the California Water Commission Armondo Quintero

Member of the California Water Commission Armondo Quintero

The General Session held the following day, and moderated by Jackson Gualco of The Gualco Group, featured Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Karen Ross and Armando Quintero, member of the California Water Commission. The General Session was rounded out with a lively panel discussion between Democratic Communications Specialist Tracy Sefl and Republican Communications Specialist Douglas Heye about the presidential election.

Impact Report

Ag Council released the 2015 Impact Report during our 97th Annual Meeting in Napa. Ag Council’s regulatory and legislative advocacy work is detailed in the report, among other efforts.

Click HERE to view the 2015 Impact Report.


From left to right: Ag Council Vice President of Government Affairs Tricia Geringer, California Cultivator Award Recipient Paul Martin, and Ag Council President Emily Rooney

Annual Meeting Survey

If you attended Ag Council’s 97th Annual Meeting in Napa, please help us plan future meetings by responding to a brief survey available HERE. Thank you, in advance, for your feedback.

Paul Martin Honored with California Cultivator Award

Ag Council recognized Paul Martin as the recipient of the 2016 California Cultivator Award. Martin was lauded for his work with the California dairy industry. He worked as director of environmental services for Western United Dairymen (WUD) and served in Governor Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development from 2012 to 2014 before returning to WUD as interim CEO for the organization. He recently retired.

To read more about the accomplishments of Paul Martin, click HERE.

2016 Golf Tournament and PAC Fundraiser Winning Team

2016 Ag Council Golf Tournament and PAC Fundraiser Winning Team from Blue Diamond Growers. From left to right: Joe Huston, Steve Van Duyn, Gail Yee, Don Yee, and Dale Van Groningen