By Dayna Ghirardelli, Executive Director
Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that we are in 2024, isn’t it? Where does the time go? I guess when our heads are down and we are focused on accomplishing tasks, we lose track of time; at least I do. That said, 2024 is bound to fly by with all the things that need to be addressed and accomplished.
The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board will be attentively working on finalizing their Vineyard Permit. We’ll be right there alongside them having candid conversations and discussions around the realities of vineyard management and showing them all of the good work our vineyard operators already do to protect water quality. We’ll maintain open lines of communication and advocate for a permit that certainly offers protection for water quality and the environment but does not require unduly or overburdensome tasks that will impose hardships on vineyard operations yet won’t move the needle on water quality protection.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors launched the County’s General Plan update. This will be no small task with the need to impart our knowledge on so many facets of our county. Without a doubt, rural landowners have the most at stake so it will take many of us to dig in and understand what kinds of changes are in front of us and how we can influence a General Plan that protects agriculture, farming, and private property rights. I hope that you will be part of this process.
And then there is the potential ballot initiative seeking to eliminate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in unincorporated Sonoma County. This is a direct attack on our animal agriculture as the proponents of this initiative equate our poultry farms, dairies, and other animal facilities with “factory farms.” Sonoma County does not have “factory farms” and the use of that term is simply a scare tactic. We know that this is only an attempted step towards eliminating animal agriculture in its entirety. We had CA Prop 2 in 2008 which is known as the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act. This was a huge imposition on California’s poultry, veal, and swine industries. In true fashion, the industries not only answered the call, but our local poultry facilities operate above compliance, not overstocking and offering each bird more space than what is required. Then in 2018, California passed Prop 12 titled the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals which increased the standards of Prop 2 for egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and calves raised for veal, and imposed these requirements on any businesses, from other states as well, that sell these products in California. Is anyone seeing the pattern? Farming and food production practices requirements should not be governed at the ballot box! These initiatives are based on emotional ideals held by self-righteous people who use misinformation and scare tactics to influence others to conform to their beliefs. This entire movement threatens all our rights to choose what is on our plate. Not only does the local ballot initiative need to be stopped, but so does the ability for food production policy to be determined by voters. Consumers already have the right to choose what they eat by what they purchase, don’t take away mine.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our local poultry producers who have been terrorized by the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. Many of our members have had to euthanize their flocks and their businesses have been halted. It will be 8-12 months before they can produce their product again. All of them are having to make the difficult decision to lay off many of their dedicated employees. The well-being and future of their employees are of great concern to each of them. As these family farmers work hard to restore their businesses, we as a community need to come together in some way to help. Sonoma Strong was coined after the 2018 wildfires, and the avian flu is much like wildfire as it spreads fearlessly across many facilities. I hope you will join me in contributing to the Poultry Farms and Employee Relief Fund set up by the Farm Bureau Foundation of Sonoma County. https://bit.ly/poultryrelief
And, what would a year be without attention to the Potter Valley Project (PVP)? We submitted comments to PG&E’s Draft Surrender Application and Decommissioning Plan. In the Ag Advocate section of this edition is a synopsis of the comments we provided and a link to an Economic Impact Report that the Sonoma County Farm Bureau funded that shows the economic impact on all of Sonoma County should this source of water be eliminated on account of the decommissioning. The potential loss of this water is detrimental for Mendocino, Sonoma, and Marin Counties, and the general public really has no idea. There is still a lot more to come so we will await the next steps of the process and ensure that our participation is meaningful to protect continued water diversion from the Eel River to the Russian River.
All of these issues are separate from the ones I don’t even know about yet, and I am confident the list will grow. So, while I can see 2024 flying by on account of this short list of deeply contented issues, I must put this all into perspective for my New Year’s Resolutions. 1) Spend more time with family. Life is short and precious, and tomorrow is not promised. 2) Take a deep breath every once in a while and exercise patience. 3) Be grateful every day no matter what the day holds.