Finding Your Voice: Advocacy
By Kim Vail, Executive Director
Published July 1, 2016
Event planning, assisting members, agricultural and continuing education, communicating information and policy advocacy are the largest time occupiers for the staff of your organization. With the dedicated support of your volunteer leaders and committee members your Farm Bureau team remains engaged on several fronts.
A déjà vu occurrence arose during May for many of the experienced leaders of the organization as an issue that was hotly debated, put to a vote and decided eleven years ago reappeared on the local policy agenda. A determined group from the original 2005 Measure M effort to ban biotechnology in Sonoma County agriculture was successful in collecting enough signatures. The new ordinance proposes enacting a ban on local propagation or cultivation of agricultural products employing biotechnology.
Their goal was to have the board of supervisors adopt the proposed ordinance immediately. A review and evaluation of the proposed ordinance revealed troublesome elements with definitions as well as resulting regulation from the draft language that could place Sonoma County farmers and ranchers at a competitive disadvantage. The supervisors listened to Farm Bureau’s concerns and instead took the alternative required option of placing the issue on the November election ballot. As the fall election nears, be aware of polarizing information that will undoubtedly be appearing. It is unfortunate that a few loud voices have an agenda to segregate agriculture into competing factions when it is entirely feasible to learn from advances in all production methods, cooperate as neighbors and coexist as agriculturalists.
The winery events issue that has been tossed about for the past several months appears to be nearing important deliberation at the local policy level. Sonoma County Farm Bureau continues to work for a local environment where wine grape growers continue to have an ability to take advantage of direct to consumer marketing through promoting and selling their wine product through tasting rooms and events. The focus needs to remain on growing premium grapes and marketing high quality wines produced throughout the county.
Another policy and regulatory topic permeating on the local scene is how our local government will treat the cultivation and dispensing of marijuana for medicinal use as far as land use policy is concerned. Permitting, zoning restrictions, environmental requirements and water use are all areas that are up for discussion.
VESCO revision and renewal of community separators are other topics on the local radar. Add to these the compliance with last year’s enacted Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, water diversion measuring and reporting, and preparation/study for an environmental impact report by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and it becomes clear the importance of supporting Farm Bureau’s efforts advocating for agriculture through membership and involvement.
I encourage you to find your voice and join the work of your organization. Invite others to join, serve on a committee, attend a hearing, write a letter or send an email – the opportunities are there for you to be a part of influencing decisions that impact Sonoma County agriculture.