Ag Issues Facing Sonoma County
By John Azevedo, President
Published November 1, 2015
So my first thought was to write about another water issue. As promised last month I will resist to do so and address something different. One of the things that came to mind for this month’s article is the hiring of our Executive Director, Kim Vail. I know there was an article in last month’s Farm News welcoming him and highlighting some of his background so I will not be redundant. That said I am very excited to have him here at Sonoma County Farm Bureau and look forward to working with him in the coming years. We searched long and far for someone with his qualifications and could not be happier to have him as part of our Farm Bureau family.
One of the biggest issues we have here in Sonoma County right now is the management of agricultural lands that exist in areas that have been listed as potential habitat for endangered species. Which critter isn’t really that relevant. Whether it’s the California Tiger Salamander, Red Legged Frog, a marsh mouse or Heaven forbid someone finds a Sasquatch in one of our Redwood Forests, we end up with several more layers of government bureaucracy telling us how we can manage our private property. One of the biggest concerns I have directly tied to that is the ability for farmers to replant, rotate crops and install fencing and other infrastructure.
Many of the ag lands affected by the listing of these species have been in farming families for generations and have been continuously farmed just as long if not longer. For these lands and families to remain viable it is imperative that farmers have the ability to change crops and continue to actively farm these lands. What seems to come with the listing of these species is the desire by regulators to stop any replanting or development down to the level of replacing fence posts in some cases. Never mind the fact that the species in question could potentially be surviving in harmony with agricultural operations going on around. Also forget the fact the species may not be present at all. Remember it is the habitat that is listed not the actual presence of the specie itself.
Farm Bureau has been working diligently to develop management BMP’s to keep ag alive and educate regulatory officials, but we are only at the beginning of these discussions. As Farm Bureau works to find a solution to keep our farm families in business and to have the ability to adapt and change crops with an ever changing market it is important that we keep two things in mind. First is that there is a group of people in the community and in the regulatory agencies that would like to see agriculture return to a horse and a plow or be gone from Sonoma all-together. That is a very small but outspoken group that we will have to deal for the foreseeable future. The second thing is that there is an election year coming up. Yes, it almost a year away, but this when we need to start thinking of who are truly mindful and educated friends of agriculture and who is not.
That said please look forward to future Farm News editions with information on any endorsements at the State and County levels. If you have any questions about these endorsements please feel free to reach out to me or Executive Director Kim Vail. Most importantly is to remember to vote so we can send a message to our elected friends and appointed regulators about agriculture’s importance to Sonoma County.