San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation

What a difference a month makes!

BY JIM FERRARI, SJFB PRESIDENT

The month of March has altered this year’s direction of California agriculture:  We have gone from the possibility of another drought to a situation of adequate water supply. With the heavy rains and resulting wet field conditions, we have had progress in our orchard and vineyard pruning stymied… and extended lengths of unusually cold temperatures have most likely had adverse impacts on susceptible fruit and nut crops.

We at the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation started off this month in attendance at the Sacramento-based Leaders Conference held by the California Farm Bureau Federation. During the conference, I was present at a membership meeting as well as several Issue Advisory Committee (“IAC”) meetings — specifically those IAC’s covering the topics of food safety and labor. These vital committees are important to the success of our organization since the annual process of CFBF’s policy development begins in the IAC meetings, and this process harnesses them as a conduit to address, strategize and deliberate on relevant issues facing California agriculture.

These meetings also serve as this year’s means to introduce and modify the language existing in the previous year’s policy handbook. Since this book guides CFBF on how to best advocate for our interests, it is fitting that updating it begins and ends with those most affected by its direction: our membership!  In fact, the beauty of this process is that the county Farm Bureaus are the drivers of the dialogue, so we in San Joaquin County are well represented in this process. This level of membership involvement is precisely what sets our Farm Bureau apart from other agricultural organizations, making it the most credible “pulse” of the agricultural community. This is the very reason why we are seen as the “go-to” entity whenever public policy is being developed by the government and other parties.  

In between these committee meetings, we spent an entire day focusing on legislative issues. We listened to several speakers that updated our knowledge of current legislative issues and the politics surrounding them. Among these individuals were California Assemblyman James Gallagher; David Crane, the president of Govern for California; and Aubrey Bettencourt, the executive director of USDA California Farm Service Agency — an appointee of President Trump, and someone that many of us know personally.    

In the afternoon, we split into small groups comprising of approximately three persons each, subsequently visiting California’s elected officials: and yes, as always, we reached out to legislators representing districts external to our own. Encouragingly, this year, we experienced a larger membership turnout in these visits than had occurred in the prior year (over 100 advocates for agriculture in one day walked the halls of the State Capitol!). What other organization has the ability to do this for farmers? And what other organization can dedicate its time to ensuring that our image as farmers is a human and real one? Only us.  

After finishing these visits, CFBF hosted a well-attended reception where we were able to further develop relationships with government employees and officials.  I feel that the visits and reception were both successful because many of our members recounted afterward that their visited legislator had never met a farmer… and some even requested to visit our farms.  

In addition, the SJFB Foundation for Agricultural Education had its successful wine tasting event, the “Taste of San Joaquin,” on March 15. Due to the success of this event, the foundation can fund around $40,000 in scholarships to students pursuing an agricultural education.