As Election Day approaches on November 6, our members are starting to ask what and who Farm Bureau is supporting. Farm Bureau has taken positions on state propositions and initiatives. In Sonoma County, Farm Bureau has been active in supervisor races and on measures that affect agriculture in our county. Over the last several years, Farm Bureau has seen the importance of weighing in on a race early and decisively. Since I have been on the board we have played a role in getting four out of five current county supervisors elected. We came out in support early in our last election for Assessor Deva Proto and Sherriff Mark Essick and our support helped both candidates win in the June primary.
City council elections, though, are starting to affect agriculture more and more in Sonoma County. In addition to their city council duties, council members are involved with Groundwater Sustainability Agency boards, Boards of Public Utilities, Planning Commissions, and Transportation Agencies, which all heavily influence agriculture in our county. Therefore, under our Executive Director Tawny Tesconi’s guidance and recommendation, we have started to interview and endorse candidates at the city council level. Historically, we have not engaged in city council elections and even today, some on our board feel we shouldn’t get involved with this level of politics because it doesn’t affect agriculture. However, many of us, including myself and Tawny, feel it is becoming increasingly more important. We, as a critical part of our mission to promote and protect farmers and ranchers in Sonoma County, must ensure that city council members understand the significant role ag plays in the overall economy.
Engaging in conversation with candidates gives us the opportunity to educate them about agriculture and develop relationships with leaders in the community. Nurturing such relationships early is important, because as we have often seen, rarely do candidates begin their public service careers with a seat at the Board of Supervisors or as a senator. Mike McGuire, for example, began his public service career when he was just 19, when he was elected to the Healdsburg School Board, then he served on the Healdsburg City Council where he was the city’s youngest mayor, in 2010 Mike was elected to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, and is now a state senator. Often, as in Mike’s case, public service leaders fill many different roles throughout their careers. Going forward, Sonoma County Farm Bureau must work to develop relationships with public officials at all levels of government and with pro-business leaders in the community so that we can have conversation, find common ground, and allow agriculture to continue to thrive in Sonoma County now and in the future.