CWA: A Big Advocate For California Farming

CWA Group Effectively Speaks on Behalf of the Busy Farmer

Since 1975, California Women for Agriculture (CWA) has educated and advocated about the importance of farming. Farm Credit continues to support their efforts.

In 1975, a group of women concerned about challenges to California agriculture got together to “speak on behalf of the busy farmer” and educate consumers and legislators about farming issues. Today, the CWA has become one of the largest all-volunteer advocacy groups in the nation, consisting of a diverse group of bankers, lawyers, accountants, marketing professionals, and consumers – along with farmers and ranchers.

Rose Tryon, a fifth-generation rancher beginning her second year as CWA president, said it is critically important that the ag industry continues to mount education and advocacy efforts, and last year added a digital campaign to its usual lobbying efforts.

“Last year we ran a digital campaign titled Faces of Ag, where our communications team highlighted members who work in different facets of the industry,” she said. “We wanted to point out (to lawmakers) how important agriculture is to the state’s economy, how many jobs are involved, and how many women and minorities are involved in ag and make a connection about how their decisions affect women and minority populations and ag in general. Our membership is as diverse as the crops we grow.”

Because of the importance of educating policymakers about the many issues affecting farming and ranching in California, Farm Credit associations serving California have sponsored CWA for more than 20 years. Supporting Farm Credit institutions are American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, and Fresno Madera Farm Credit – all of which are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, the largest provider of credit to American agriculture.

“About half of the million dollars Farm Credit donates to nonprofits each year goes to preserving agriculture and raising awareness of the importance of agriculture in California,” said Timothy Elrod, president, and CEO of Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit. “CWA’s 1,300 members do a great job educating decision-makers and advocating for policies that keep our state’s agriculture industry competitive and viable. We believe our contribution of $10,000 a year to support this great organization is an investment in the future of farming.”

Tryon said Farm Credit’s support over the years has been essential in helping the organization grow

“We can’t continue to advocate without our sponsors, and we are so appreciative of Farm Credit’s support. They’ve been an absolutely wonderful sponsor, and we couldn’t continue without them,” she said.

The organization consists of 21 local chapters that focus on promoting agriculture locally and providing scholarships to students majoring in farming-related majors. Tryon said her local chapter in the Chico area, for example, raises money to loan to students who can’t afford to buy an animal for FFA or 4H competitions. A student then raises the animal, shows it, and repays the loan when she sells it after the competition.

That kind of commitment to the future of agriculture is another reason why Farm Credit continues to sponsor CWA, noted Keith Hesterberg, president and CEO of Fresno Madera Farm Credit.

“In our area, CWA partners with Ag One to put on the Ag Boosters BBQ each year, which raises funds to support ag students and programs at Fresno State,” Hesterberg said. “Farm Credit is proud to directly sponsor that program, which helps ensure we will have well-educated ag leaders in the future.”

Photo: California Women for Agriculture members gathered at their annual convention in 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

National Agriculture Week is Here

Each year, more than one-million students learn about the importance of agriculture through the efforts of California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. This spring, Agriculture in the Classroom will partner with CDFA and the California Women for Agriculture to host California Ag Day 2015 as part of National Ag Week (March 15-21).

On March 18, the State Capitol will come alive with farm animals, educational displays, and entertainment all celebrating California’s great agricultural bounty during California Agriculture Day. The theme for the 2015 event is “California Agriculture: Breaking new Ground.” A focus will be the importance of soil health to our food supply and all of agriculture.

Ag Day is the agricultural community’s annual opportunity to educate and inspire the farmers and ranchers of tomorrow, showcase new technologies, and highlight the diversity of California agriculture.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross, along with 12 other industry leaders, are members of the National Agriculture Week host committee. The host committee helps plan and promote special events throughout the state.

“Please join me and other leaders in agriculture as we support the education of our next generation of consumers and voters,” said Secretary Ross. “National Agriculture Week gives us the opportunity to celebrate agriculture, an industry that provides a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply, a strong economy, and a world of job opportunities.”

An additional Ag Week event will be held on March 19 at the Sacramento Kings’ Experience Center in Sacramento, to recognize student winners of Ag in the Classroom’s Imagine this… Story Writing Contest. Student authors will attend and read their stories from the newly published Imagine this… books to the audience. A southern California event will be held aboard The Queen Mary on April 2.

Since 1986, The California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, a non-profit organization, has worked to promote a greater awareness of agriculture’s role in our daily lives to California’s teachers and students. The Foundation delivers exciting, standards-based curriculum that builds students’ knowledge of the farmers and ranchers who produce the food, clothing, and shelter they use every day. Agriculture in the Classroom programs reach far beyond the classroom walls and into the lives of California’s students and their families.

Debate Heats up on Proposed EPA Water-Quality Rule

Source: Kate Campbell; Ag Alert

Discussion has intensified about proposed changes to the Federal Clean Water Act. As farmers and ranchers express increasing concern about enhanced permitting requirements, land-use restrictions and legal liability that the proposal could cause, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched its own campaign to defend the proposal.

Agricultural leaders want the EPA to scrap the proposed rule changes, terming them a poorly orchestrated attempt to expand agency jurisdiction. The proposed rule was published in April, and remains open to public comment until October.

County Farm Bureaus in California are joining the national push to have the proposed rule changes withdrawn, reaching out to members of the state’s congressional delegation and urging the proposal be stopped.

Meanwhile, the EPA called its proposals merely an effort to clarify regulatory jurisdiction, which was called for in two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that ruled against the agency’s attempt to expand its jurisdiction over “waters of the United States.” EPA said the proposed rule would have minimal economic impact and would not affect many acres—only about 1,300 acres nationwide.

The American Farm Bureau Federation called that assertion “laughable,” considering the amount of land nationwide that has the capacity to retain seasonal moisture, a condition covered by the proposed rule. Under the proposal, legal experts say, wet spots could be deemed “waters of the U.S.”

AFBF said the EPA effort to expand its jurisdictional authority over most types of waters and lands is regulatory overreach that has the potential to impose costly and time-consuming federal permit requirements, as well as place limits on routine farming practices, such as building a fence across a ditch or pulling weeds. Essentially, EPA has proposed regulations that fundamentally redefine “waters of the U.S.” and eliminate the term “navigable” from the law, AFBF said.

“We’re urging Congress to take a look at the proposed rules and we’re urging the agency to withdraw both of them,” California Farm Bureau Federation Federal Policy Manager Rayne Pegg said, referring to both the main EPA proposal redefining “waters of the U.S.” and an “interpretive rule” that focuses on agricultural activities.

Pegg stressed that farmers recognize the need to protect water quality, and already abide by a number of water-quality regulations.

“Adding another layer of regulation does not mean you will get better results,” she said. “Instead, the rule will create more paperwork. It’s a poorly conceived rule. EPA should meet with farmers and listen to its own Scientific Advisory Board to craft something that is practical.”

There are a number of things going on in Congress right now related to these rules, she said, and CFBF has been responding to questions from members of congressional committees—including the House Appropriations Committee, which is considering legislation to remove funding for implementation of the proposed waters of the U.S. rule.

In response to the uproar over the proposal, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy took to the road last week—touring a Missouri farm and meeting with a number of Kansas farm groups. She acknowledged during a lunch discussion with agricultural leaders the waters of the U.S. proposal has “fallen flat on its face.”

But during a speech in Kansas City, she charged that the EPA proposal has been beset by “D.C. myths.”

“Misinformation is becoming the story, while the legitimate, serious issues that we need to talk about are taking the back seat,” McCarthy said.

At the same time McCarthy visited the Midwest, the Natural Resources Defense Council—an environmental organization—took out advertisements supporting the EPA proposal.

Confusion about what the proposed rule may actually cover and conflicting interpretations of the rule changes may leave political leaders with the impression the proposal is benign and that farmers don’t need to worry, said CFBF associate counsel Kari Fisher.

“EPA would like political leaders and the public to believe that all farmers need to do is go ahead with normal farming practices and not worry about the proposed changes,” she said. “Unfortunately, that’s incorrect.”

Fisher said the interpretive rule on agriculture would require certain farming practices—such as putting in a new fence or maintaining a ditch—to comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture standards administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. She noted that the interpretive rule would apply only to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which covers dredging and infilling land that could affect wetlands.

But the proposed rule to expand the definition of “navigable waters” applies to the entire Clean Water Act, she said, and would expand EPA jurisdiction over water.

“If the proposed rule redefining waters of the U.S. is adopted, farmers with land that features a depression or low spot that’s adjacent to a tributary flowing to navigable water could be brought under the rule’s jurisdiction,” Fisher said.

Although the interpretive rule might provide a limited layer of protection for farming and ranching activities from the need to obtain Section 404 permits, she said, “it will not provide protection from other necessary Clean Water Act permits, such as those for the discharge of pollutants.”

Farm Bureau leaders continue to urge members to help prevent the proposed rule from becoming final by commenting about the impact the proposal would have on their farms and ranches.

Information from EPA on the proposed changes to the CWA can be found online at Background information on the issue from AFBF is online at

For information on arranging local farm tours, grower roundtables and informational meetings with members and staff of California’s congressional delegation, contact county Farm Bureau offices or the CFBF Federal Policy Division at 916-561-5610.