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March 29, 2013

Ag Council Holds Successful 94th Annual Meeting

Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael)-photo courtesy of Holly Foster

Ag Council concluded a successful joint meeting with CoBank last week 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).

Jon Marthedal and California Cultivator Award recipient, A.J. Yates

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.

Thank You to our Sponsors

We appreciate the generous support of the following members and friends who helped make Ag Council’s 94th Annual Meeting a success.

Annual Meeting Sponsors

Platinum
Nationwide
Fruit Growers Supply Company/Sunkist Growers
Farm Credit Alliance

Gold
Blue Diamond Growers
Land O’Lakes
Sunsweet Growers

Silver
Allied Grape Growers
Moss Adams, LLP
Pacific Coast Producers

General
Butte County Rice Growers Association
DFA of California
The Gualco Group, Inc.
Valley Fig Growers

Golf Tournament and PAC Fundraiser Sponsors

Gold
Blue Diamond Growers
CALAMCO
Pacific Coast Producers
Raisin Bargaining Association

Silver
Bank of the West
Central California Almond Growers Association
DFA of California
Eadie & Payne, LLP
Edgewood Partners Insurance Company
Farm Credit Leasing
Griswold LaSalle Cobb Dowd & Gin LLP
KPMG, LLP
North Valley Ag Services
Wells Fargo Insurance Services

Majority Leader Atkins Tours Farms

Grower Dave Phippen and Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego)

As Ag Council continues its outreach to key members of the Legislature, Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) recently joined our members from the Almond Hullers and Processors Association (AHPA) and the California Canning Peach Association for farm tours. Majority Leader Atkins is in her third year as a legislator and is a newly appointed member of the Assembly Ag Committee.

Dave Phippen, an almond grower, packer, shipper and board member with AHPA, hosted the Majority Leader at his farm in Manteca. He talked about almond bloom and irrigation practices in the field, and he discussed sustainability relating to crop protection tools. In addition, Dave explained how solar power is being harnessed to power his processing facility.

Next, the Majority Leader met with Peter Martini who is a peach grower with the California Canning Peach Association. He discussed his family history and talked about the growing process. Peter also spoke of the challenges he faces as a cling peach grower such as labor, fuel costs and the impact of imports. The trees were in full bloom, so it was a beautiful time to visit. Majority Leader Atkins and her staff member had the opportunity to taste and enjoy canned peaches during the drive back to Sacramento.

Ag Council greatly appreciates the help of Kelly Covello with AHPA who assisted in the organization of the tour, as well as the assistance of Rich Hudgins with the California Canning Peach Association.

We are especially thankful to the Majority Leader for taking the time to learn more about our membership and for her interest in agriculture.