By Kim Vail, Executive Director
Published August 1, 2016
If you are paying attention to what topics are important lately, of course, there are the most recently completed national party conventions and the accompanying policy platforms that will be debated over the next three months. In November, we will elect a President and Congress who will guide our national and domestic interests into the future. In all of this election activity though, there has been little attention focused on the importance of agriculture in our society and its contribution to our national security.
Many people today take for granted what a significant and stabilizing factor agriculture is in the modern, increasingly sophisticated society we enjoy in this country. Food production and distribution many times is taken for granted as there have always been ample quantities of quality food in our stores and markets, so there is little reason to believe this will change. Reports from military leaders caution about the tremendous instability in countries where agriculture development is not prioritized. Our nation’s investment in agriculture research and innovation, infrastructure and transportation, and risk management tools has resulted in an unparalleled food production system, which is strongly linked to our national security. Sound farm policy is a key ingredient to maintaining food security.
California is fortunate as a state to be blessed with a climate and natural resources that result in our farmers and ranchers growing crops and raising animals that generate over $100 billion in economic activity every year. This economic engine is responsible for providing over 450,000 direct jobs, both year around and seasonal with roughly an additional two and a half million people employed in agriculture related jobs statewide. Prominent topics at the state level also impact food security, our lives and our ability to be successful stewards of the land. It seems as though several of our state elected officials need to be reminded about the importance of food security and stop proposing laws and regulations that add limitations and barriers, such as water use and sourcing or compensating farm workers.
However important these national and state focused areas are and will be, the days, weeks and months ahead are equally as important in determining locally how successful agriculture can be in Sonoma County. Sonoma County farmers and ranchers were responsible for contributing over three quarters of a billion dollars of production value to the economy during 2015. This amount represents an overall 14% decrease from 2014, in large measure due to lingering drought conditions. Our county farmers and ranchers though are resilient and innovative, and are working to grow the food supply in harmony with whatever conditions appear. Every year is different and having the flexibility to respond is important. Policy considerations impacting local agriculture are frequently prominent in today’s headlines and it is a stark example of the importance of participation in this process.
Sonoma County Farm Bureau is in place to represent all local agricultural interests in shaping public policy decisions that enhance food security. 2017 will mark the 100th year of Farm Bureau in Sonoma County. The legacy of this first century is one of leadership, innovation and cooperation. Our leaders are thoughtfully considering how to best keep the organization positioned as a strong advocate for everyone who lives on, works and protects the land.