SCFB at Work in Sonoma County
By John Azevedo, President
Published June 1, 2016
So as you read this, I am three quarters of the way through my term as County President. For any of you that do not know what the term is, it is a maximum of two one year terms. It has been an exciting experience and with harvest, holidays and all the activities in the fall, it’s going to be over before I know it. That said, we are tackling some major issues, as always. There never seems to be a dull moment at Farm Bureau, and I wanted to update you with a list of what we are up to.
One of our major issues that has reared its head is the new ballot initiative to ban transgenic (GMO) crops from being cultivated in Sonoma County. Farm Bureau helped Sonoma County voters fight and overturn a similar ban ten years ago. There is a small but vocal group that has continued on with their agenda and qualified it for the November later this year. This ban does nothing to prohibit the sale of or labeling of foods containing GMO’s. It is a straight ban on production in Sonoma County. A processor could potentially receive product from another county or state and still sell it as produced in Sonoma County. We will oppose this ban and continue to support ALL forms of agricultural production.
The issue of Winery Events discussion is still afoot. We have met with some concerned members about activities in ag lands and have been working to help find a solution to this topic. We are still waiting to learn how an event is defined. We are also waiting to see what measurable impacts are. This is an issue that will have direct consequences to future winery tasting rooms, and I feel with the scope of these regulations, it will set precedent for other direct from farm retail sales. That said, we feel there is cause for concern for someone with a few acres of land in rural parts of the county that wants to facilitate 50 weddings a year. That person is not deriving the majority of their income from ag and we are concerned when people are moving livestock or running farm equipment that these people could start complaining about sights, sounds, and smells from their farming neighbors. Stay tuned for more on this.
Tito Sasaki has been SCFB’s lead person in regards to water issues for the last 18 months. He has his hands full dealing with SGMA and our local irrigation district(s). The water issues in this County and State are not going away and with everyone wanting a piece of this pie this also is a burning issue.
Another looming topic is the revision of VESCO. There is discussion of not allowing some existing vineyards and orchards to be replanted in the next version. VESCO has evolved from a simple permitting process to protect water quality through reducing erosion (and it has worked great at that goal) into a way to potentially limit farmers ability to replant land that has been actively farmed, in some cases for the last 150 years. If this is the path some choose to go down we consider this a take and we will fight vehemently against such a direction.
One other thing we have been working on is revamping the Farm Bureau building at 3589 Westwind Blvd.. It is in need of a makeover and will require a major investment to fit our future needs. We are long overdue for a facelift, and hats off to Steve Dutton for tackling those potential projects.
That’s the short list of some of the big issues. We have three to four times as many things going on as that. Important things like membership, training courses, and fundraising events to generate money for scholarships and to promote agriculture education. Reach out to me or the hard working folks in the office at any time to learn more about what’s going on.