Ag Council Annual Meeting
March 8, 2014
Ag Council Meet “Sow Seeds of Success” At 95th Annual Meeting
Stormy weather was a welcome travel inconvenience for the more than 160 cooperative leaders and farmer members who made their way to Huntington Beach, Calif. this past week for the 95th Annual Meeting of the Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council) that was held in conjunction with CoBank’s Pacific West Customer meeting.
“Financially the Ag Council has never been stronger,” said Rich Hudgins, 2014 chair of Ag Council and president and CEO of the California Canning Peach Association. “2013 has been a very good year for our organization with a dramatic increase in our membership base. In the words of Henry Ford, ‘Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; and working together is success.’ Farmer-owned cooperatives are the perfect example of the power of working together toward a common goal.”
California’s historic drought was a key topic during the Ag Council Annual Meeting, and was a primary focus of the organization’s advocacy work during the past year, according to Ag Council President Emily Rooney in remarks she made during her annual address.
“Given the state’s water crisis and the many pending regulations surrounding ground water, the top issues facing our membership heading into the coming year are related to water—both quality and quantity,” she said during her annual address. “Proposed increases in several fees associated with water use have the potential to be very challenging to our members’ food production businesses.”
In addition to water, Rooney also said that recent surveys conducted by Ag Council ranked air quality, cap and trade, and labor regulations as challenges that will figure prominently in the group’s advocacy efforts in 2014.
Ag Council represents more than 15,000 California farmers who are affiliated with the organization’s 33 coop and agricultural industry association members. Allied members of Ag Council represent a diverse array of businesses and associations that support the state’s $44.7 billion agricultural industry.
California’s historic drought has meant that Ag Council is also focusing a significant amount of its legislative efforts on water issues, said Tricia Geringer, vice president of Ag Council while addressing members during the group’s Delegate Body Meeting.
“The only silver lining to the fact that we are facing the driest year on record since the state first began keeping track in 1885, is that water shortages are touching every California resident personally,” said Geringer. “That means, as in the words of Governor Jerry Brown during his remarks to our members at the World Ag Expo in February, ‘the drought seems to have been a wake-up call to people regarding how critical water is to our state’s prosperity.’”
“Nearly one-third of legislators were freshman members in 2013, so our work in familiarizing law makers with the agricultural industry and its importance in California’s economy is a constant priority,” added Geringer.
More information about Ag Council’s advocacy efforts can be found in the 2013 Impact Report, which the organization released during the 95th Annual Meeting. The full report can be accessed at the Ag Council web site (www.agcouncil.org).
The Ag Council Annual Dinner on March 2, featured keynote speaker Senator George Runner (Ret.), and current member of the State Board of Equalization. “This is a tough state to do business in,” said Runner during his remarks. “You are overtaxed and overregulated, so I have a great deal of gratitude for those of you who establish a business and stay in California.” Runner discussed his efforts in tax reform and his interest in seeing California taxpayers receive a fair benefit for the taxes they pay.