Sonoma County Farm Bureau Launches New Level of Membership for Larger Producers

Written By: Tim Tesconi
Published: November 30, 2014

Sonoma County Farm Bureau is offering a new voluntary membership category called Premium Business Support. The new category is for larger producers or businesses that want to further support Farm Bureau’s on-going work in such areas as political advocacy, governmental affairs and regulatory relief.

This voluntary membership category is for any winery, vineyard company, farm or business interested in advancing the work and mission of Farm Bureau, the county’s largest and most influential agricultural organization. Members can join at $1,000 per year or pay $1 per acre for every acre over 1,000 acres of owned or leased property. A winery company with 2,500 acres of vineyards, for example, would pay $2,500 to be a Premium Business Support member.

“The Premium Membership category is being offered because it’s our feeling that the bigger farmers in Sonoma County should be paying a higher price for all that Farm Bureau does on their behalf. This includes monitoring government regulations on the county, state and national levels, and working to protect our right to farm through political advocacy and education,” said Steve Dutton, first vice president of Sonoma County Farm Bureau and chairman of Farm Bureau’s Membership Committee.

Steve Dutton and his brother Joe Dutton, owners of Dutton Ranch, based in Graton, are the first to sign up as Premium Business members of Sonoma County Farm Bureau. They paid $1,000 in annual membership dues, reflecting the 1,000 acres of vineyards and apples they farm in Sonoma County. Regular agricultural membership in Farm Bureau is $195 a year.

Dutton believes that the $1,000 is a good investment in his business and the future of agriculture in Sonoma County.  Many farmers say agriculture would have been regulated out of California long ago if not for Farm Bureau’s advocacy and on-going monitoring of legislation and regulations. Dutton said Farm Bureau membership is a bargain compared to the dues and membership for other trade and marketing organizations.
Farm Bureau membership, said Dutton, should be more equal to the benefits provided, particularly for those agricultural operations capable of paying more. He said he doesn’t think it’s equitable that all agricultural producers pay $195 in annual membership dues whether they are farming 10 acres or 1,000 acres.

“The farmer with 10 acres is paying $19.50 an acre to be a member of Farm Bureau and the farmer with 1,000 acres is paying 19 cents an acre,” said Dutton.
Regardless of the kind or level of membership, Dutton said anyone who farms in Sonoma County, whether a small or large grower, organic or conventional, should be a member of Farm Bureau.

“Farm Bureau protects your right to farm any way you want as long as it’s a legal crop. If you farm in Sonoma County you should be a Farm Bureau member. If you’re not a Farm Bureau member, why aren’t you?” said Dutton.

Sonoma County Farm Bureau, founded by family farmers in 1917, is a grassroots organization that works collectively to tackle issues that one farmer would be hard-pressed to battle alone. It’s working together, while sometimes disagreeing, to solve problems that crop up in Sonoma County’s diversified farming industry. Farm Bureau is providing input on many current issues including the Riparian Corridor Ordinance, the new Well Ordinance and groundwater regulations. Farm Bureau is also working to elect candidates at the county and state levels who have an understanding of agriculture.
Dutton said Farm Bureau members owe it to themselves and Sonoma County agriculture to ask their farming friends and neighbors if they are Farm Bureau members.

“And if not, why not?  Farm Bureau members need to be advocating the benefits of Farm Bureau and the importance of having everyone in agriculture working together to protect our interests,” said Dutton.

Premium members will be listed in the Sonoma-Marin Farm News and in an animated global footer on the Sonoma County Farm Bureau website.  Each year, Premium Members will be invited to an exclusive lunch with state and county political leaders, providing a chance for one-on-one dialogue with policy makers about issues critical to agriculture, business and the environment.

Anyone interested in learning more about Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Premium Business Support membership can contact Raven Castro, member relations and advertising coordinator, at 707-544-5575 or or Steve Dutton at 707-823-0448.

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