Roger Isom on New Legislation and PG&E

Big Question Marks for New Legislation and California Agriculture

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

Californians are still trying to get a feel for new legislation, while agriculturalists wonder what they’ll be up against this year. According to Roger Isom, President and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association and California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, issues pertaining to water and PG&E are among the top concerns for Valley growers.

Last year, there was potential for a water fee and fertilizer tax combination that ended up not passing, but left growers to question what they will be faced with in the future.

“With the water situation the way it is, from a supply standpoint to the nitrate issue and drinking water, we know there’s going to be legislation on that,” Isom said.

Other than the continued concern of water, Isom added that perhaps one of the biggest question marks in California agriculture is how they will handle a potential PG&E bankruptcy. He explained that the state’s rates are already the highest in the country due to gas laws and renewable energy mandates, and he fears that an increase will only make a difficult situation almost impossible.

“We’re already looking at ratepayers being faced with huge liability from the fires last year. When you throw the Camp Fire on top of it, what does that mean for us?” he concluded

Consumers Need to Support Ag

Help Consumers Understand Ag

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Many Californians aren’t aware of the amount of agriculture in the state, and the diverse crops that are grown here, and sometimes this leaves farmers in the back seat when it comes to policy making. Cindy Smith is the Ag Policy Relations Director at Gowan. She spoke with us about the importance of consumer relations in agriculture and helping them learn to support ag.

“That’s the key message that we have to deliver, because increasingly the people who are making decisions in Washington DC are disconnected from the field,” Smith said.

“So they really need to understand that the decision that they make has an impact on a farmer, and if it has an impact on a farmer, it has an impact on a consumer,” she explained.

We all know that it’s difficult to blame consumers for not knowing about agriculture.

“Unless you live next to a farm, or you have a family member who’s in farming, a person just will not know much about agriculture,” Smith said.

“Farmers represent less than two percent of the population, in the United States, so it’s very understandable that the consumer may not have a direct connection to the farm,” she said.

“Helping consumers understand what farming actually mean, and what farmers think about, and care about, when they’re growing foods that we eat, or that go to our clothing or whatever, I think would really help consumers have a better appreciation of the value and the importance of keeping American agriculture viable and successful,” she explained.

“Talk to the people you know, talk to them at church, talk to them at Rotary, talk to them at work. They’ll tell you: ‘I like the idea that these apples, peaches, carrots, come right here from California, and I want them to continue to be available,’ ” Smith said.

“The disconnect is that I’m not sure they always understand that some of the policy decisions made might threaten that. Making sure that consumers make that connection, I think, is key for our success, too,” she said.

Keeping the California Dairy Industry Afloat

The Necessity of Keeping the California Dairy Industry Competitive

 

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

 

 

Anthony Raimondo, an attorney with 15 years of experience working with farmers and farm labor contractors, is concerned the California government is placing the state’s agricultural industry at an economic disadvantage compared to other states. Raimondo used the California dairy industry as a prime example in which arbitrary in-state legislation is giving other states an advantage.
dairy cows

 

“The state government tells the dairy farmer how much they get to charge for milk,” explained Raimondo. “They have now raised minimum wage and overtime, with AB-1066 becoming law, but they do not tie any of that [added cost] to the milk price. Farmers will lose money,” he said.

 

“The California dairy industry is still fighting to be a part of the USDA’s Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO),” Raimondo continued. “But until that happens, the added costs are causing many California dairymen to weigh their options.”

 

Increasing government regulation is making it difficult for California dairies to compete with other states, Wisconsin in particular. Raimondo elaborated, “For many years, Wisconsin’s milk production was on the decline and California’s milk production was on the rise; that trend has now reversed. Wisconsin is now on the rise again and California is on the decline because our dairies can’t make it with the level of regulation and the level of cost,” he said.

 

“Some dairies have reduced hours to keep costs low,” said Raimondo. “Other dairies are closing either because they are going out of business or because they are moving to places like Idaho and Texas where the milk price is better and the cost profile is more favorable.”

 

The move to a FMMO would help even the playing field for California dairies. Raimondo warned there is a lot at stake if nothing is done to lower milk production costs in the number one Ag state. “We are going to lose a segment of agriculture that is 100% family farms. Family farming is one of those things that is precious to our state, and it can’t be brought back once it’s gone,” Raimondo said.

Western United Dairymen Statement on Executive Immigration Action

 State Needs Immigration Action for Year-Round Labor

 

Yesterday, President Obama announced a series of executive immigration actions intended to provide relief from deportation and work authority to certain individuals who are not legally present in the U.S. The specific implications for agriculture are difficult to assess, but it is clear President Obama’s executive action is limited and only proposes temporary relief.

WUD firmly believes that Congressional action is the only true path to a comprehensive solution for the current broken immigration system. For example, farmers with year-round labor needs are ineligible to participate in any existing program because the law requires the job to be seasonal and the worker to be temporary. Legislation appears to be the only way to eliminate this challenge to our country’s food security.

The consequences of labor instability and Congressional inaction to address it have been severe.  We are committed to achieving a fair legislative solution that most importantly, legalizes the current workforce and provides a stable, legal, year-round workforce moving forward. Our dairy families depend on these experienced employees who understand the needs of our dairy farms and herds.

WUD is a voluntary membership organization representing more than 60% of the milk produced in California. Membership benefits include resources in labor law, environmental regulations and pricing issues. Members decide the direction of state and federal legislative efforts affecting the dairy industry.