Paul Wenger Says Stay Involved

Farmer Paul Wenger on His Past Role as Farm Bureau President

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Paul Wenger is a third generation farmer producing almonds and walnuts in Stanislaus County, and he is the past president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. California Ag Today recently caught up with him and asked him about that tenure heading up the largest agricultural state’s farm bureau.

“It’s been a real honor and a privilege to represent California agriculture through the Farm Bureau,” Wenger said. “We are the largest general ag organization and certainly, we don’t replace any of our commodity groups or other organizations, but at times you need that organization that can consolidate the entire state.”

“The diversity of our crops, 250 different commodities north, south, central, east and west, and [to] be able to advocate in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and bring everybody and consolidate that into a singular voice has been a challenge because sometimes we all like to look our own direction. However, we need to think holistically,” he said.

Wenger learned a lot on a trip to Australia.

“The growers there allowed themselves to be divvied up by region and by commodity. They lost control of their water and it was separated from their land, and we certainly can’t have that happen here,” he said. “So just having the ability to bring people together for a singular focus to advocate for agriculture has been a real high spot.”

Wenger said, of course, he’s still a part of farm bureau, but when he left that presidency, he had a message.

“The biggest message is we don’t have to accept what’s happening to us as being inevitable, and a lot of people say we can’t change things, and that’s apathy. With farm bureau, we have elected boards of directors in 53 counties representing our 58 counties,” Wenger said. “Trust those folks to have the same vision that you would have if you were sitting there. Even better, why don’t you get involved and get out there? So my message to farmers and ranchers is we can make a difference to just sit back and do nothing. We should not do that. We cannot do that.”

And Wenger said not having to do the day-to-day duties of the president of the California Farm Bureau, it leaves more time to farming.

“We’ve got some opportunities to expand the farming operation, and we do a lot of custom work, so I’m looking forward to getting back on the farm, but I can’t just shut it off either,” he said.

“When I read the paper and see the news, it makes you want to go to battle with some of these other groups that are always countermanding what we do or the legislature that is just not getting it right. Sometimes it’s kind of hard to say you have a lot of wins, but if we can just keep ourselves in the battle, that gets us farther down the road and maybe it gets better next year.”

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Agricultural Guestworker Act Won’t Help California

Proposed Legislation Long Way from What State Needs

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s Agricultural Guestworker Act is moving forward for the full Ag Committee to consider it, but according to Paul Wenger, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation, it’s a long way from what California needs.

“They did something with the H2C proposal. It’s a long, long, long ways from what we need here in California. We’ve been very clear on that … with Kevin McCarthy’s office, being the leader of the Republicans and really our key architect for all things that go through the Legislature, and so we’re in constant contact with Congressman McCarthy,” Wenger said.

The ag leaders in California are pretty astounded that Congress is doing anything about labor.

“We’re glad we finally got something to discuss, but there’s a long ways to go,” Wenger explained. “As it’s written, as it came through the subcommittee, there’s really nothing there that would work for our employees here in California and give us the kind of flexibility that we need, but we need a vehicle to start the discussion. … Talking to Congressman [David] Valadao’s office, Jeff Denham and others on the Republican side because it’s really got to be led by the Republicans.”

“We  now need a lot more that will allow for some portability of our workforce, in order to get legal documentation for those folks that don’t have good documentation that are already here in our state working without touchback, because we know folks aren’t going to go back and stand in line for 20 years waiting for some kind of a work authorization.”

 

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Paul Wenger: We Must Take Advantage of Signal to D.C.

California Farm Bureau Federation says Republican President, House and Senate are good news for California Ag

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

At the recent 98th Annual Meeting of the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) there was definitely a positive buzz in the air regarding the recent election.

Walnut and almond grower and CFBF President Paul Wenger said agriculture should take quick advantage of what is an unexpected trifecta.

president of the California Farm Bureau Federation
Paul Wenger

“During the Bush administration, the Republicans controlled the house and the Senate and also the White House, and we didn’t quite get done the things that we want to get done, but I think there was a signal sent in this last election,” Wenger said.  “It surprised everybody. It surprised the Republicans, the Democrats, the Independents – everybody. The establishment. The non-establishment.”

Wenger said the industry has an opportunity to work with the incoming Trump Administration to actually get some things done. “I think the voters sent a very clear signal. We don’t want business as usual. We want to see things get done. People need jobs. People need to be able to not be held down by all this regulatory morasses out there, and so I think in the first 100 days and definitely within the first 14 months, it will make or break this administration,” Wenger said.

“We need to work together. We need to get moderate Democrats with the Republicans. We cannot allow … divisions within the Republican party. We’re lucky to have California Congressman and House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy in a very influential position,” Wenger said. “We have a great list of congressmen around the state – not only in the Republican but the Democrat side – to work together. So let’s solve some problems.”

Wenger noted that agriculture needs relief from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I think one of the things that the Trump Administration wants to do through the Interior and the EPA is to get some relaxation or some equity in the Endangered Species Act,” Wenger said.

“The Endangered Species Act was put in under a Republican administration, but nobody thought it would be carried out to the extreme that it is. It’s a very immovable object. Let’s get some flexibility in this that gives mankind the same equal footing that we have for other species because we’re dependent upon that water,” Wenger said.  “We can have a healthy environment and a healthy economy and produce food, but so far, those doors have been slammed shut, and it’s only one way, and that’s the species way.”

The Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement is another issue. “We’re going to have to work with the Trump Administration. He came out during the campaign, said he was against it. He said he was against NAFTA. We need these trade agreements,” Wenger said. “He said he was going to put up a wall, but the other day he said in that wall there’s going to be doors, so if we can work with this Trump Administration and make sure that we have an available legal workforce, that’s great, but Waters of the US (WOTUS) is dead in the first few days of his administration,” Wenger said. “This will be good for all farmers and ranchers across the country.”

WOTUS is a rule that was a 2015 ruling by EPA as part of the Clean Water Act, which says that the EPA as expanded agency over bodies of water and even low areas of ag land where water can settle. It has been met with lawsuits form many states, and major pushback by agriculture.

Wenger said that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) may also get another look.  “We think there’s a good potential that they’ll take another look at and make it more practical rather than this onerous rule that everybody’s trying to figure out,” Wenger said.  “Also, we think the estate tax is something that he’ll take a look at.”

“We’re excited to work with a new administration, see what we can forge in the first 100 days for sure, and at least in the first 14 months so that not only do we have a trifecta for the first two years of his administration, but the last two years too,” Wenger said.

 

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California Farm Bureau Federation President Decries Water Diversion Plan

Science Shows Increased Water Flow Doesn’t Save Fish, Paul Wenger Says

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California Ag Today is continuing our coverage of the State Water Resources Control Board’s plan to take 40 percent of the water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers to feed into the San Joaquin River to increase flows for salmon. There is major pushback by affected farmers. We spoke with Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, at their 98th annual meeting in Monterey this week. He farms almonds and walnuts in that area, and he and his family would be seriously impacted; they would be forced into more groundwater pumping.

president of the California Farm Bureau Federation
Paul Wenger, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation.

“It just seems the same old adage,” Wenger said. “If we put more water in the rivers, it’s going to be better for the fish. We know that it hasn’t worked with biological opinions. We know it hasn’t worked in the Sacramento, it hasn’t worked in the delta. We need to go after some of these other predatory species: the striped bass. They’re an introduced species.”

Wenger said there’s a lot of data saying that just won’t work. “The studies have been done, the science is out there. Just to say that we’re going to keep adding water to the problem [and] we’re going to get a different result is ridiculous. We have a finite resource of water today. We have growing needs for it for urban [and] foreign environmental flows, but also for farming and manufacturing.”

Wenger believes that the Water Board always makes rules quickly are not invested in the outcome.

“As I tell the folks, you come up with the ideas, but you’re not invested. You’re investing my future. You’re investing my resources, and other farmers’, but when we have these environmental groups say, ‘This is a solution.’ Why don’t you put your money up?”

 

 

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Senate Tells Gov. Agencies to Back Off WOTUS Rule

U.S. Senate Tells EPA/Army Corps to Back Off Farmers re: WOTUS Clean Water Act

 

Edited by California Ag Today Staff

 

A report issued TODAY by a U.S. Senate committee documents how federal agencies overreach their authority to regulate farmland, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF), which said the report underlines the need for congressional action to reform the agencies’ practices, particularly regarding the WOTUS Rule.

The report from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee describes numerous incidents in which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have tried to expand their authority to regulate what crops farmers grow and how they grow them, based on the agencies’ interpretation of the Clean Water Act.

“A disturbing number of the cases described in the Senate report came from California,” CFBF President Paul Wenger said. “Farmers and ranchers here have seen firsthand that the abuses outlined in this report aren’t theoretical—they’re real.”

One case in California is particularly troublesome. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) ordered John Duarte, a farmer and nurseryman to cease farming his land after he plowed 4-7 inches deep to plant a wheat crop in his field. Duarte, in turn, filed a lawsuit to vindicate his right to farm his land. The U.S. Department of Justice fired back with a countersuit.John Duarte WOTUS

Duarte has spent over $1 million in legal fees to date, yet the government is seeking $6-8 million in fines and “wetland credits.” Duarte now faces a costly appeal and legal battle, the outcome of which will set precedence on important issues affecting farmers and ranchers nationwide.

Landowners’ concerns stem from a rule the agencies finalized last year, known as the “Waters of the United States” or WOTUS rule, which would bring more waterways under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Although a federal court has temporarily halted enforcement of the WOTUS rule, landowners and their representatives say the Corps continues to enforce the act so narrowly that, as a practical matter, its actions mirror the intent of the new rule.

“We’re grateful the Senate committee has highlighted the impact on farmers and ranchers caused by overzealous interpretation of the Clean Water Act,” Wenger said. “Farmers and ranchers want to do the right thing and protect the environment as they farm. But they shouldn’t be tied up in knots by regulators for simply plowing their ground or considering a new crop on their land, and they shouldn’t have their land declared off limits if they must leave it idle due to drought or other conditions beyond their control.”

Wenger called on California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to join efforts to clarify Clean Water Act enforcement and reform agency practices. “Congress has the ability to restore balance to Clean Water Act enforcement,” said Wenger. “We urge our California members to help farmers grow food and protect the environment, free from fear of overreaching regulation.”

Details of Senate Statement

epa-logo-wotusU.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, released an EPW Majority Committee report titled “From Preventing Pollution of Navigable and Interstate Waters to Regulating Farm Fields, Puddles and Dry Land: A Senate Report on the Expansion of Jurisdiction Claimed by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.”

The report releases findings from the majority staff’s investigation into how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers are interpreting and implementing their authority under the Clean Water Act.

“This new majority committee report demonstrates in detail that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, under the Obama administration, are running rogue,” Inhofe said. “Case studies in this report show that the Obama administration is already asserting federal control over land and water based on the concepts they are trying to codify in the WOTUS rule, even though the courts have put that rule on hold. Congress shouldn’t wait on the Supreme Court to make the inevitable decision that this agency overreach is illegal.

“This report should be evidence enough that it’s time for Democrats and Republicans to work together rein in EPA and the Corps. Over the course of the past year, 69 Senators – a veto proof majority – have gone on the record about their grave concerns regarding the WOTUS rule. It’s time to come together to protect farmers, ranchers, water utilities, local governments, and contractors by giving them the clarity and certainty they deserve and stopping EPA and the Corps from eroding traditional exemptions.”

The report summarizes case studies that demonstrate the following:

EPA and the Corps have and will continue to advance very broad claims of jurisdiction based on discretionary authority to define their own jurisdiction.

The WOTUS rule would codify the agencies’ broadest theories of jurisdiction, which Justice Kennedy recently called “ominous.”

Landowners will not be able to rely on current statutory exemptions or the new regulatory exemptions because the agencies have narrowed the exemptions in practice and simply regulate under another name.

For example, the report highlights instances where if activity takes place on land that is wet: Plowing to shallow depths is not exempt when the Corps calls the soil between furrows “mini mountain ranges,” “uplands,” and “dry land;”

Disking is regulated even though it is a type of plowing:

Changing from one agricultural commodity constitutes a new use that eliminates the exemption; and puddles, tire ruts, sheet flow, and standing water all can be renamed “disturbed wetlands” and regulated.

On Tuesday, Inhofe delivered a copy of the report with a letter to 11 Senate Democrats who, in a letter on Nov. 3, 2015 to Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) on WOTUS, stated that: “Farmers, ranchers, water utilities, local governments, and contractors deserve clarity and certainty. Should the EPA not provide this clarity or enforce this rule in a way that erodes traditional exemptions, we reserve the right to support efforts in the future to revise the rule.”

In Inhofe’s letter to the 11 Senators, he said the new committee report should meet the test set forth in their Nov. 3 letter, and he called on the members to live up to their commitment and work with the committee on tailored legislation to end agency overreach.

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LGBTQ+ Agriculture Summit

Cultivating Change: Building A Network of LGBTQ+ Agriculturists

June 8th – 11th, 2016 Kicks off the 2nd Annual Cultivating Change Summit In Sacramento

The Cultivating Change Foundation is hosting their 2nd annual Cultivating Change Summit designed to explore and empower the intersection of the agriculture industry and the LGBTQ+ communityLesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender and Questioning  (and allies)a group of people rarely represented in either of the communities of which they are a part, the agriculture community or the LGBTQ+ community, for the most unique professional development conference ever. 

CDFA LOGOParticipants can go to http://www.cultivatingchangefoundation.org and register to join this important conversation. The Summit is the first of its kind providing a safe space for LGBTQ+ agriculturalists and people who love and respect them to come together and connect through a shared experience. With over 200 participants from industry leaders to innovators uniting June 8th-11th, in Sacramentothe epicenter and capital of the number one agriculture producing state in the nation, with a common goal of amplifying and elevating this global conversation. This Summit will allow LGBTQ+ agriculturists of theUSDA past, present, and future to see that they are not alone and recognize the Ag industry needs all of us for a sustainable future.

“It is important that the community come together to share information and best practices, not only to ensure we all reach our full potential, but also to support one another as so many LGBTQ people across the country contribute daily to our rural and agriculture communities.” – Ashlee Davis, LGBT Rural Summit Series, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Over the three days, the Cultivating Change Summit will have 40 speakers, workshop presenters, and keynotes delivering content focused on four different areas: agricultural education, production agriculture, government and policy in agriculture, and urban agriculture. Some of the Summit’s distinguished guests include the California State Secretary of Agriculture, Karen Ross, and the President of California Farm Bureau, Paul Wenger. Representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture, Sacramento government officials, and individuals from global agricultural companies will be present.

CFBF logoThe main summit events will take place at the Crest Theatre in Downtown Sacramento, 1013 K Street. The final day of the summit will include tours of Northern California’s Agriculture landscape and local agricultural operations.

“I’ve waited more than 20 years for someone to start the conversation. I believe in Cultivating Change! Let’s do this!” – Rob Larew, Staff Director, US House Committee on Agriculture.

About The Cultivating Change Foundation

Founded in 2015, the Cultivating Change Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, focuses on valuing and elevating minorities in agrarian communities through innovation, education, and advocacy.

Tickets are available for the Cultivating Change Summit and can be purchased through the website for $225. Special group ticket packages, sponsorship opportunities, and a detailed schedule are also available online. Visit www.cultivatingchangefoundation.org for more information.

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Prather Ranch Receives 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award

Prather Ranch Named 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award® Recipient

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – (November 18, 2015) Sand County Foundation, the California Farm Bureau Federation and Sustainable Conservation are proud to announce Prather Ranch as the recipient of the prestigious 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award®. The award honors private landowner achievement in the voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.

Prather Ranch, owned and managed by Jim and Mary Rickert, is a working cattle ranch headquartered in Macdoel, and stretches across five counties. Under the Rickerts’ management, Prather Ranch has grown in size, implemented conservation enhancements and established several permanent conservation easements. Over the last 35 years, Prather Ranch has continually collaborated with diverse partners to enhance the land and promote land stewardship in the community.

One of the ranch’s first efforts to promote biodiversity was taking an unusual approach to managing the wild rice fields on their land near Mt. Shasta. After rice harvest, they began tilling the stubble into the soil and keeping their fields covered in water year-round. The practice not only benefited common species of waterfowl such as Canada Geese and Snow Geese, but it also attracted shore birds like plovers and terns, previously found only on the coast.

Through conservation easements in cooperation with the Shasta Land Trust, the Rickerts have preserved some of the state’s most spectacular wildflowers and protected sensitive vernal pools and riparian areas. Prather Ranch has also planted several miles of riparian habitat along streams and irrigation canals to benefit a wide range of animals such as the California Quail and the endangered Shasta crayfish.

Jim and Mary Rickert provide community leadership, working with 4-H, Future Farmers of America, and local schools for ranch field trips and other activities.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

“Because more than half of all land in California is privately owned, how landowners manage their properties has a dramatic and lasting effect on the environment and quality of life for all Californians,” said Ashley Boren, executive director of Sustainable Conservation. “Since the 70s, Jim and Mary have demonstrated an above-and-beyond commitment to enhancing the land, water and wildlife across a large swath of the state. And, they’ve done it in true Leopold fashion, regarding their land not simply as a commodity that belongs to them, but rather seeing their land as a community to which they belong.”

“The Leopold Conservation Award recognizes unique yet replicable strategies a farmer or rancher has developed in managing their land, to be the best steward of the natural resources,” said Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau President. “We are honored to join Sand County Foundation and Sustainable Conservation to recognize the extraordinary efforts of California farmers and ranchers who go above and beyond in managing and enhancing our natural resources.”

The Leopold Conservation Award program inspires other landowners through these examples and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders.

The 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award will be presented December 7 at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in Reno, NV. Each finalist will be recognized at the event, and Prather Ranch will be presented with a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold and $10,000.

The award sponsors also wish to congratulate the 2015 finalists for their outstanding contributions to agriculture and conservation: Bruce and Sylvia Hafenfeld, who own Hafenfeld Ranch and manage public lands in eastern Kern County, and Ken and Matt Altman, who own and manage Altman Specialty Plants in Riverside and San Diego Counties.

The California Leopold Conservation Award is made possible thanks to generous contributions from American Ag Credit, The Harvey L. & Maud S. Sorenson Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, The Mosaic Company, DuPont Pioneer, and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

 

ABOUT THE LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD®
The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The award consists of $10,000 and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold. Sand County Foundation presents Leopold Conservation Awards in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

ABOUT SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION
Sand County Foundation is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to working with private landowners across North America to advance ethical and scientifically sound land management practices that benefit the environment.

ABOUT SUSTAINABLE CONSERVATION

Sustainable Conservation helps California thrive by uniting people to solve the toughest challenges facing our land, air and water. Since 1993, it has brought together business, landowners and government to steward the resources that we all depend on in ways that make economic sense. Sustainable Conservation believes common ground is California’s most important resource. 

 

ABOUT CALIFORNIA FARM BUREAU FEDERATION

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of over 53,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members. 

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California Leopold Conservation Award® Seeks Nominees

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – (April 28, 2015), the California Farm Bureau Federation and Sustainable Conservation are accepting applications for the $10,000 California Leopold Conservation Award. The award honors California farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who demonstrate outstanding stewardship and management of natural resources.

“The Leopold Conservation Award celebrates the people and places where innovative and creative thinking and experimentation are taking place,” said Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm, recipient of the 2014 Leopold Conservation Award. “If you or a friend include conservation in your daily decision making – I hope you’ll submit a nomination. It’s okay to brag about good land stewardship.”

“Good intentions and luck take no farmer down the road to profitability and improved land health. Leopold Conservation Award recipients epitomize the creativity, drive and heartfelt conservation commitment it takes,” said Sand County Foundation President Brent Haglund.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award inspires other landowners by example and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

“California’s future gets brighter only if we all do our part,” said Sustainable Conservation Executive Director Ashley Boren. “The Leopold Conservation Award celebrates those deserving, but often overlooked, landowner heroes who do their part every day to steward our environment in ways that benefit people and the planet. The Leopold Conservation Award is proud to have recognized a diverse range of agricultural operations over nearly a decade – including CSA, dairy, rice, vegetable and tree crop farmers, as well as cattle ranchers.”

“The Leopold Conservation Award recognizes unique yet replicable strategies a farmer or rancher has developed in managing their land, to be the best steward of the natural resources on their farm or ranch. California farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world and are trendsetters at maximizing the fullest potential of their land to produce food and other agricultural products with the least environmental impacts,” said California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger.

Nominations must be postmarked by July 10, 2015, and mailed to Leopold Conservation Award c/o Sustainable Conservation, 98 Battery Street, Suite 302, San Francisco, CA 94111. The 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award will be presented in December at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in Reno.

The California Leopold Conservation Award is possible thanks to generous contributions from many organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, American AgCredit, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, DuPont Pioneer and The Mosaic Company.

ABOUT THE LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD

The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The award consists of a crystal award depicting Aldo Leopold and $10,000. Sand County Foundation presents Leopold Conservation Awards in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

ABOUT SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION

Sand County Foundation is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to working with private landowners to advance the use of ethical and scientifically sound land management practices that benefit the environment. www.sandcounty.net

ABOUT CALIFORNIA FARM BUREAU FEDERATION

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 74,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.

ABOUT SUSTAINABLE CONSERVATION

Sustainable Conservation helps California thrive by uniting people to solve the toughest challenges facing our land, air and water. Since 1993, it has brought together business, landowners and government to steward the resources that we all depend on in ways that make economic sense. Sustainable Conservation believes common ground is California’s most important resource.—-

Mana Mostatabi | Digital Marketing & Communications Strategist

98 Battery Street, Suite 302 | San Francisco, CA 94111

(415) 977-0380 x350 | http://www.suscon.org

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California Farm Bureau’s Paul Wenger Addresses 96th Annual Meeting

California Farm Bureau President reflects on membership triumphs & challenges in 2014 and his hopes for 2015

By Kyle Buchoff, CalAgToday Reporter

Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) welcomed attendees to the 96th Annual CFBF Meeting by introducing the conference’s theme, ‘California Agriculture Caught in the Crosshairs.’

“The only way to be a target is to be standing still. I can guarantee we are not going to stay standing still, but from time to time, I think we have stood still. It is interesting; people say this is provocative, but it is also spot-on, California agriculture has adapted and improved, and continued to adapt and improve, and continues to provide food and fiber. We have become a victim of our own success, and because many times we would just as soon as sit back and hope the world would pass us by while we do nothing short of miracles by producing more and more food and fiber with basically the same resources we have had for years, all of a sudden, we’ve become victims of our own success.”Farm Bureaus Meeting Theme

“After two wet years when our reservoirs were brimming to capacity, our farmgate value in 2011 rose to a record of $43.5 billion. Now that’s farmgate, and you will hear other states say how they have a $100 billion farm economy, but this is just the farmgate, and we are not even talking about what our multiplier effect is.”

Wenger explained that California agriculture slipped by $1 billion in 2012, and “we have yet to see what the final report for 2013 will be. But, if it is any indication by what we have been witnessing  through the county ag commissioners in their reports for food and fiber production, it will likely set a new level.”

“And ladies and gentlemen, as bad as 2014 was for water, the fact that we had 4, 5 or 6 hundred thousand acres out of production, the fact that we had 17,000 jobs lost, what the University of California said was a $2.2 billion dollar farmgate loss due to lost production; I would estimate (and we won’t know until 2015), that 2014 will probably set a record year for farmgate value and income.”

“And we will have our detractors and others who say, ‘what is wrong on the farm?’ Agriculture continues to increase and produce even though we have challenges. The underlying number 1 challenge of the statistical health of California agriculture is water. Today’s presentation though is going to be forward-looking.”

Wenger’s presentation included a “Working for You” document handed out to each member that detailed the organization’s policies, and the duties of its staff, officers, and board of directors. Wenger recognized the efforts of Rich Matteis, CFBF administrator and staff to prepare the document and solve issues for the California Ag industry. Wenger explained, given the challenges over the last few years, and especially with the Affordable Care Act, “Rich Matteis has been doing nothing short of miracles, orchestrating our staff to be able to do more with less.” Wenger urged Farm Bureau members to carefully review the document to understand how the organization is endeavoring to work on their behalf.

Though the document did not include contributions from the 53 county farm bureaus, Wenger recognized the farm commissioners and the work product from their bureaus, led by volunteer staff who have to transition around new leadership every few years. “They have to keep air in the tires, and the bearings greased so everything works in our county farm bureaus. As a grassroots organization, it’s those folks and the folks we have at CFBF and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) that really help those of us who are farmers and ranchers to accomplish what we do.”

Wenger considers 2014 a very interesting year and expects the same in 2015. “It’s all about water, folks. Think back not too long ago to August when we had all the mechanizations around the water bond: ‘is it going to be a $6.5 billion bond? Is it going to be $6 billion bond?” There were questions about water storage and how much funding would be allocated for water storage.

“We finally got it done with a near unanimous vote to get the water bond on the ballot for $7.5 billion with $2.7 billion continuously appropriated for water storage. We don’t know what will happen, but we are glad it got on the ballot.”

Continuing, Wenger said that shortly afterwards, all the attention turned to groundwater. “The two groundwater bills working their way through the legislature were signed by the governor in September.” Later, one of the authors, former Democratic California State Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, wrote, “The Governor signs historic groundwater legislation. California’s water future is secure.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Wenger, attributing Dickinson’s recent defeat at the polls to the funding and efforts of the California Farm Bureau Fund to Protect the Family Farm (FARM PAC).

“Let’s not lose focus on what happened in November. For the first time in four decades, the electorate decided to do something about our water infrastructure.” Their message to Sacramento, well beyond the water bond, was, “We need to do something about our water infrastructure, not only for our environment, not only for municipal and industrial, but most of all for agriculture because we are feeding the world.”

“And so what happened is nothing short of phenomenal,” he continued, congratulating the board for stepping up and spending the funds to be able to get over the threshold and have a win.”

Returning to the theme of the conference and its positive outlook in his closing, Wenger stated, “A lot of folks will say that ‘Caught in the Crosshairs’ is a picture of despair. I actually say, ‘no, it’s hope.’”

Wenger said there’s hope for what the industry can do if given a little bit of water. “Some folks will say that with the clouds, it is doom and gloom; but remember, we need to have rain clouds to have water in our reservoirs and streams. Really this is a picture of opportunity and of what can be and will be if we work together and really take an aim on advocacy.”

“As we take an aim at advocacy, everybody gives the example of a three-legged stool: one leg is not any good without the others. “That’s absolutely true; I couldn’t do what I do without Kenny Watkins (First Vice President) and Jamie Johansson (Second Vice President). As we look to the future, we have to educate; we have to engage; and, we have to be advocates.”

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After 10 years as CAPCA’s CEO/President, Terry Stark To Step Down

Terry Stark’s Final Speech to CAPCA Conference Attendees

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

“They wouldn’t give me a walk-around microphone because they were afraid I would preach, so you guys lucked out,” noted Terry Stark, the feisty, fun-loving professional CEO and President of the California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA), who led the organization for 10 years.

Stark spoke to CAPCA attendees during the final session of the 40th Annual CAPCA Conference and Agri-Expo in Anaheim, in October.

“And I don’t have a PowerPoint, so you’re going to luck out even more,” he said.

“I am going to talk to you briefly about some of the programs going forward, and how you, as CAPCA members, can make a huge contribution. You heard California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger and the other general session speakers talk about investment, involvement and belonging; we need you to step up and do that,’ said Stark.

 

Tell People What You Do!

“With 3,000 PCAs in CAPCA, we’re the third largest association in the state of California, next to the Farm Bureau and Western Growers Association. Commodity boards or mandated programs; and you come to CAPCA because you want to come—because you’re volunteers—and the future will be how you mentor the future PCA generation.”

“How do you do that?” he continued. “You heard two of our speakers say, ‘tell somebody what you do, why you do it, and why you love to do it,'” noted Stark.

“The CAPCA Board was very generous in moving $100,000 dollars three months ago to the Stanley W. Stew Education Fund, Inc. to start the first CAPCA Leadership Institute. We have staff that has been challenged to find champions to go out and raise funds; I don’t care if it is one dollar or one million dollars, to develop a leadership program.

“I love this place. The CAPCA Leadership Institute will inspire plant science students to get their PCA license. And how we’re going do that is that? We’re going to have to our chapters, to our members, and when they talk to anyone with a dollar in their pocket, to make the contribution to the Stanley W.  Stew Foundation; its a [501(C)(3)] corporation, its a tax write-off. And Steve Bickley (CAPCA Board NorCal) and I have the project management to develop the protocols on how we’re going to run this,” noted Stark.

“Well, I’m not stupid; we have Shannon Douglas, our coordinator to our Pathway to PCA program, to help out. In fact, we have two dozen-plus PCAs in the room who attended the Leadership Foundation programs up and down the state. We’re going to take that knowledge from the young farmers and ranchers and from the Farm Bureau, we’ll take that Ag leadership, and we’ll make a program in which at least one dozen PCAs on an annual business basis will learn how to conduct themselves around legislators, supervisors, and school boards. In other words, how do you tell someone that you are important?” Stark said.

 

How to Fix Stupid?

Stark noted that his board is asking a critical question of the candidates for my job, “Can you fix stupid? What I mean by that is when I sit down and talk to PCAs, it’s clear who the smartest person in the room is, and it’s not me,” Stark said.

“So, if you get tapped to be a champion to raise money for the CAPCA Leadership Institute, if you say “no,” I will come back from Texas and hound you until you get your wallet out. I truly believe that that’s going to be the program of the future, it will allow us to reinvest in the `Pathway to PCA’ program.

“When the program headed up by Shannon Douglas was to sunset three years ago, our Ag retailers and basic manufacturers stepped up and funded $300,000 to continue the work. And through those efforts, we have about a 50 PCA license-gain over where we were five years ago. It’s an important program so that we make sure young professionals get that crop protection and crop science education to have a career that can go from 35-40 years. It’s very important,” Stark said.

“When I got on the Board of Directors, I was the oldest guy on the Board. You’ve been in business for 40 years and you’ve done certain things the same way for 30 years, and my job was to help point that ship in a direction where you could have another 40 years. And one of the accomplishments, again, is the generations have changed and we’ve got a younger board of directors now. We have the enthusiasm of a younger board now, and through the leadership of Gary Silveria (CAPCA Vision Planning Committee Chairman), we have crop teams on the table now.

“Ok, you’ve heard crop teams talked about by Jeremy Brisco (CAPCA Executive Committee Chairman) yesterday. Not everyone can leave the field, leave their office, drive to Sacramento, sit in a room for an hour and a half, and drive back to San Diego or Desert Valley or up to Chico. So, how do we get our intellectual knowledge moved forward and yet still be recognized by who you are and why you do what you do?” said Stark.

“We’ll start with 8 areas of crop teams, but the ideal is we’re inclusive. We’re going to use Skype and Go to Meeting technology, and you don’t have to drive five hours to get there. This is the educational gap change that the younger guys and women can do so much better than us older guys,” Stark noted.

 

The Right Champions in Place

“But we recognized that gap, pre-drought, when we had the legislative bore, and there was no money in the budgets, no taxes. You know the University of California is going through the same attrition, and all of a sudden, counties couldn’t send their Ag Commissioners to meetings and Extension people couldn’t travel, or we couldn’t replace their expertise,” Stark noted. “We’ve got 3,000 experts. You will travel, you will provide the leadership and you will succeed. My goal in making this happen for the board of directors is that we have the right people in place. Gary Silveria has put the right champions in place on these crop teams, so if you get asked, `do you want to help with almonds, or do you want to help with strawberries,’ the answer is `Yes, I want to help!’”
“And I guarantee you we will be—CAPCA will be—in 3-5 years—the go-to expert at any of those crop protection incidents that will occur. And you will be standing side-by-side with UC Agricultural and Natural Resources Extension people and the commodity board research folks in fighting the problems. That’s what you will accomplish. That is innovative! I know some of my chapters are going to say, `what are the chapters going to do?’ and I’ll say this, `you have a purpose!’”

“Find that purpose. I’m not going to tell you what your purpose is…. you find your purpose. And you make the crop teams successful. And you make the Pathway to PCA successful. It’s all about being positive; one of our speakers said, `don’t say anything you can’t do.’ Hell, I’ve never said I can’t do anything, said Stark.

Continue reading “After 10 years as CAPCA’s CEO/President, Terry Stark To Step Down”

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