California Ag Secretary is Keynote Speaker at State of Agriculture Address in Santa Rosa

Written By: Tim Tesconi
Published: October 28, 2011

The key issues facing California agriculture will be explored by the state’s two top farm leaders at Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s first ever State of Agriculture Address to be held from 8 a.m. to noon on Nov. 1 at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building.


California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross, a dedicated advocate for the agricultural industry and the state’s farmers, is the keynote speaker at the event. Ross will address the leading issues on the agricultural agenda and the state’s priorities to deal with the challenges ahead.  She will provide an overview of the legislative landscape for agriculture and how producers can be proactive in shaping farming’s future.



Paul Wenger, a walnut and almond farmer from Modesto who is president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest and most influential agricultural organization, will discuss the politics of farming and how Farm Bureau works to protect the rights and interests of farmers and ranchers .  Wenger is a respected leader who is on the front lines daily in Sacramento to keep California agriculture strong and viable.


Sonoma County Farm Bureau, which has more than 3,000 family farmers and rural landowners in its membership ranks, is sponsoring this public forum to give the region’s agricultural producers access to information that is vital to farming and their future.

The high caliber of speakers and the timely topics of the State of Agriculture Address make it an event that anyone associated with agriculture should attend,” said Lex McCorvey, executive director of Sonoma County Farm Bureau. “Whether  you farm an acre of vegetables, produce honey, have a vineyard or winery or simply do business with agriculture, you need to attend this program.

McCorvey also will be a speaker at the State of Agriculture Address, providing an overview of the state of Sonoma County agriculture. He also will outline the hot topics in Sonoma County agriculture and what Farm Bureau is doing for its members. Farm Bureau works on the county, state and national levels to protect farming interests by educating policymakers about the special needs of the farmers and ranchers producing food and fiber.

The future of agriculture depends upon an engaged agricultural community —aware and involved in the issues that support or hinder our abilities to make a living in agriculture,” said McCorvey. “The State of Agriculture Address is designed to inform and invigorate the agriculture community.

Michael C. Saqui, a leading labor attorney who has represented agriculture in farm labor disputes and strikes, also will speak at the State of Agriculture Address. Saqui has fought and prevailed against many of the biggest and best financed labor organizations in the United States. He is one of the most sought-after speakers in California because of his expertise of labor law, assisting employers in developing pro-active approaches to address virtually all employment and labor relations matters.

The State of Agriculture Address will start at 8 a.m. on Nov. 1. The event is free for Farm Bureau members. The first hour will be a social gathering and the chance to learn about the Sonoma County agricultural organizations and agencies that work with farmers. There will be more than a dozen organizations and agencies setting up informational booths in the main auditorium of the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building.

Wenger is scheduled to speak at 9 a.m, Saqui at 10:15 a.m. and Ross at 11 a.m.
McCorvey said the three speakers will provide important and useful information and insights that will help agriculture producers maintain their competitive edge in the tough business of farming.

Karen Ross is an excellent political voice to support California agriculture.  She will share her thoughts on how our industry adjusts to a new paradigm of political change and economic challenges,” said McCorvey.

Ross was appointed Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture last January by Gov. Brown. Prior to her appointment as California secretary of agriculture, Ross was chief of staff for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a position she accepted in 2009.

Before her time at the United States Department of Agriculture, Ross served more than thirteen years as President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG), based in Sacramento. During that same period she served as the Executive Director of Winegrape Growers of America, a coalition of state winegrower organizations, and as Executive Director of the California Wine Grape Growers Foundation.

Ross’s agriculture roots run deep. She is a fourth-generation farmer from Nebraska where she grew up raising livestock and crops as a member of the 4-H Club.
California Farm Bureau President Wenger is a third generation Stanislaus County farmer, who grows walnuts and almonds on a family farm, which includes property purchased by his grandfather in 1910. He was elected president of the California Farm Bureau Federation in December 2009 after moving through the leadership ranks of the state organization.

California Farm Bureau president Paul Wenger is a genuine farmer and strong voice for California farms and ranches. His personal experience and knowledge of our industry makes him a perfect choice to lead California’s number one agricultural organization,” said McCorvey.

McCorvey said labor law attorney Saqui will enlighten and inform those attending the State of Agriculture Address.

Labor law attorney Michael Saqui is a dynamic speaker,” said McCorvey. “With public concerns over illegal immigration and e-verify farmworker eligibility rules, Michael is adept at providing information that every farm owner needs to know about their legal rights and responsibilities.

The organizations and agencies setting up booths at the event include the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Rural Crime Task Force, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Sonoma Land Trust, Farm Employers Labor Service, the Resource Conservation Districts of Sonoma County, California Farm Bureau Federation, American AgCredit, Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, Sonoma County Water Agency, California FarmLink and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers.

Admission is free for Farm Bureau members.  Each Farm Bureau member is entitled to two complimentary tickets to attend the State of Agriculture Address. To make reservations call the Farm Bureau office at 544-5575 or e-mail

Non-member or additional guest tickets are available at $25 per person and also require advance reservations.  Further information about the event is available by calling 544-5575.

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