Anyone who has been involved with leadership in Farm Bureau above and beyond the essential support of being a member knows that Farm Bureau has historically been looked upon to be the voice of agriculture as a general farm organization.
Generations of Farm Bureau leaders have dedicated countless hours into advocating policies and influencing decision makers to positively affect the prosperity of farming and ranching while always remembering that we are simply borrowing what we have been given from our grandchildren.
It is during this time of year when I am always reminded of the importance of the dedication and commitment of our leaders. Annually, during December and January is when Farm Bureau comes together to assess what has been accomplished and also what challenges are in store for us. Sonoma County Farm Bureau leaders joined their peers from across the state in early December at the CFBF annual meeting to evaluate progress, identify success, and set direction for our efforts on behalf of our members.
Certainly, and without a doubt, one of California and Sonoma County agriculture’s pressing challenges continues to be protecting farmland and water for agriculture. Dealing with recent water policy decisions related to the ongoing drought is at the top of the list. CFBF President Wenger, in his annual address, emphasized the imperativeness of continued local involvement to stem the trend of restricting agricultural water through environmental regulatory activity. It is becoming clear that our water future is going to involve measuring, monitoring and in some way reporting. SB88 and its recently released emergency draft regulations for water diverters are extremely burdensome for agriculture.
Riparian surface water has been regulated in California for 100 years. With the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act last year we are at the beginning of regulating groundwater resources. We have the opportunity now to cooperatively assist in the formation of local groundwater sustainability agencies. Sonoma County Farm Bureau will be at the table as this process unfolds to influence how our local groundwater can be managed effectively.
In January, farmers and ranchers from our state are joining with others from across the country to evaluate agriculture issues from a national perspective and to renew these advocacy efforts. Again, water is at the top of the list. While continuing to pursue federal support for western water solutions, uncertainty looms over the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Waters of the US” (WOTUS) rule. If implemented, this rule could result in one of the largest property rights takings by the federal government.
Farm Bureau is engaged at the local, state and national level to protect agriculture’s collective interest. In 2016 membership growth and political action will be vitally important to growing our sphere of influence with the open primary in June and 12 year term limits for newly elected state lawmakers. I encourage each member to listen to the candidates running for office and evaluate their alignment with the interests of agriculture.