2016, The Year of Unified Agriculture
By John Azevedo, President
Published January 1, 2016
With a new year brings new opportunities. After all of the issues we have tackled over the last year I am looking forward to getting some more resolved and hopefully behind us. I think 2016 is the year a unified agriculture will be as important as ever for Sonoma County. I think of all of the issues we face, and I do not want to beat a dead horse if you have read my earlier articles but there are plenty of issues. I believe the key to success for Farm Bureau and Sonoma County agriculture is unity.
I look at the strength of all of the commodities in the county right now. Beef prices, milk prices and grape prices are all good. As are other commodities like veggies and eggs. I also look at the excitement coming from some of the younger faces we have in agriculture. There is an entire group of young people who dream of farming – needless to say those of us who are third and fourth generation etcetera. We are blessed with a nationwide food movement that is concerned over the types of foods they eat and where they are produced. We are organic. We are sustainable. We are traditional agriculture. We are Sonoma County. We are as well situated to be a leading agricultural county as any in California at every level. We should be proud, and we need to be united.
We are facing challenges to our water and land rights through GSA’s, ESA, WOTUS, the irrigated lands discharge permits that are pending and numerous others bureaucratic actions. It is important that we stand together against these actions. We must work together to educate the bureaucrats and regulators. This is not a time we can be divided if we are all going to survive. Because a farmer has more land does not make them corporate. Because another has less does not make them a hobbyist. We are all agriculture. Our commodity does not matter. Our survival and the ability to change those commodities in the future matters.
Sonoma County will be forming a new irrigation district to represent agriculture in 2016. We don’t know how exactly it will be shaped, but it will happen and it will represent all of agriculture. There are some among us that have decided to try to go it alone on forming an irrigation district that does not represent all of ag, and they have not gotten very far. This is an example of where we are stronger together than divided, and I hope that lesson has been learned. We must stand together and Farm Bureau is the only ag group in the county that has the ability to pull us together get this accomplished. We will, and we will with the help of many stakeholders and commodity groups working together for a common goal.
I have also been concerned about how some of our neighbors have called larger farmers corporate. I can only think of a few corporations involved in agriculture in Sonoma County. I don’t think they are bad nor are they a very high percentage of agriculture in Sonoma. We are still a county based on family farms. Many of us that are part of a family farm are relatively small. That does not make us hobbyists. We all get up every day and put on our boots to get out and produce the food and fiber that makes Sonoma unique. Don’t forget that and don’t let those differences divide us. In reality it is what makes us strong.
For anyone reading this and wanting to get involved please call us at the Farm Bureau office at 544-5575 for more information on what you can do. Thank you and I hope to see you all at our crab feed in February. I would like to wish all of you and your families a Happy and Prosperous New Year for 2016. Stay strong and stay united.