On Friday April 10th, 24 guests joined the Sonoma County Farm Bureau for a Premium Member luncheon at Dutton Lake. Guests mingled before lunch with Congressman Mike Thompson, California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger and Farm Bureau staff.
After a catered lunch and dessert, Thompson and Wenger both addressed current issues and Premium Members had the opportunity to ask questions. Congressman Thompson’s speech emphasized the importance of the Farm Bureau and Premium Membership. Thompson told attendees that that it was very important to have a group behind them they could count on.
Thompson addressed how many consumers still think their groceries are coming from Safeway and how much agriculture is misunderstood in the community. The Farm Bureau is one organization working on these issues, and Thompson acknowledged they are the organization attending the meetings and doing the heavy lifting.
“Premium Membership is outstanding, but not surprising,” said Congressman Thompson. “Premium Membership is a great idea, and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau is a great organization.”
One issue Congressman Thompson discussed was estate taxes. He believes Congress needs to take care of agriculture, and if they’re going to preserve ag, they need to keep the land in agriculture. He expressed his frustration with a recent bill that was voted down but is determined to revise the bill and have it passed.
Members at the lunch asked Thompson about immigration reform, trade agreements and the drought. The drought was one of the trending issues of the day, and Thompson talked about his commitment to help agriculture cope with the drought including increasing capacity to store water.
“There is not a single bill congress could pass that will end the drought,” said Thompson. “Bills that can help are already in place. The bottom line is we need rain and we need snowpack.”
Paul Wenger respectively disagreed, and said the Farm Bureau will lobby for more legislation to be put in place to help the drought. With California as one of the top ten economies in the world, Wenger is confident that we can produce the food the world needs, but there has to be water.
Along with water, Wenger believes that preserving the environment is also a critical goal of agriculture. “We have air conditioned and heated homes and cars, and we think ag needs to exist the way it always has – we need to use our technology to help the environment,” said Wenger. “It is because we are wealthy and can take care of folks that we can take care of the environment.”
Wenger is a strong supporter of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Premium Membership. With this type of membership, almost all the money is staying local to support important issues. Wenger also encouraged employers to gift memberships to their employees. Wenger said sometimes employees are left out of the loop and just want to know what’s going on in the industry.
“At the end of the day, we’re stronger if we stand together,” said Wenger, “and as we look to the future we’re going to have to pull together.” Farm Bureau Premium Membership is one way that the industry can band together to support agriculture.