San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation

Influencing at the federal level

BY JIM FERRARI, SJFB PRESIDENT

We have just finished celebrating our 104th Annual Meeting on June 23 with an enjoyable day spent at the Borra family’s Gill Lake. The event was highlighted with speakers starting with California Farm Bureau President Jaime Johansson, followed by Assemblyman Heath Flora and U.S. Congressman Jeff Denham. This was truly a distinguished lineup of people that are very busy handling both state and federal legislative matters. This alone speaks volumes to the influence and position of importance that your SJFB holds with these people.  

Congressman Denham’s presence was a special honor, given his stature as a leading force in current negotiations to craft immigration policy in Washington, D.C. I’m sure by now that you may recognize his face due to his multiple appearances this last month in various mainstream media outlets, especially on Fox News channel television coverage. In fact, immediately after taking the time to speak to us on that Saturday afternoon, he was scheduled to quickly return to weekend negotiations that may prove critical to the passage of immigration reform legislation. And we hope that his efforts prove successful in gaining enough votes to ensure that agriculture may enjoy a much needed and long-awaited guest-worker program to free us up from our labor woes. 

We were also pleased to learn at the meeting that President Trump has released a new proposal to transfer both FDA and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) functions into a single USDA department covering all food safety to be called the “Federal Food Safety Agency.” Now, with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) inspections rolling out in January of next year, we can better be heard and responded to by a USDA agency designed to work with and not against farmers.  

This is a policy concept that ascended with San Joaquin Farm Bureau directors working alongside California Farm Bureau to convince American Farm Bureau Federation and eventually the president to act on our behalf. In fact, according to Christine Haughney of Politico, even House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway is quoted as being in favor of this type of move.  

So, as Step 1 in quickly realizing this proposal — temporarily providing relief to farmers and food transporters before comprehensive legislation is later enacted for this “big move” — we ask Congress to immediately pass the CFBF-authored Amendment to transfer both the FSMA Produce Safety Rule and the Sanitary Transportation Rule to USDA jurisdiction. We still have an opportunity to make this happen in the Farm Bill by means of Congressional Conference Committee, so we now hope that Congress will have the wisdom to approve these important changes.  

It is good to know that all our hard work may begin to pay us back and that we have a voice in Washington, D.C., that is finally being heard! San Joaquin Farm Bureau can be proud of its contribution to maintaining the safety and security of our nation’s food supply while easing the potential conflict of having an agency with a less-than-stellar track record with agriculture to oversee FSMA implementation.  

I would like to thank all our members for their support. It’s important for you to realize that together, we can influence the direction of public policy for the better. Your membership does matter… and working together, we can continue to affect the process in a positive way.