Ag Unite Addresses Critical Ag Issues

Ag Unite Brings Stanislaus County Together

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau was recently recognized with a Program of Excellence Award from the American Farm Bureau for its Ag Unite program.

One of the big goals of Ag Unite is gathering money for political action. “We raised money for political action, and we also raised money for legal defense funds because there’s a lot of lawsuits that are happening, where a lot of people have had issues with government overreaching,” said Wayne Zipser, Executive Director of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau.

Wayne Zipser

An example of government overreach is with John Duarte of Duarte Nursery in Stanislaus County. That case involves Duarte Nursery versus the Army Corps. of Engineers. The court ruled that the company violated the Clean Water Act by plowing its property, even though the Act exempts normal farming practices.

“We’re looking to raise money for that and for a variety of other things that we know that are going to come along. We know that it’s not the last thing that’s going to happen, certainly not the first. We need to get elected people in the legislature who understand. We must have people that have more of a moderate and an understanding of what agriculture is, what it’s based with, and how we can be able to survive in California,” Zipser said. “The farmers and I today field calls constantly. We’ve got some new legislation that has come along, and it’s costing them a lot of money. It’s costing them a lot of things, and they’re fed up. We need to get more involved, and that’s what Ag Unite was all about. Getting more people involved and trying to bridge everyone together, not only if you’re a farmer, but the tractor salesmen, the seed sales folks, the car dealerships, the insurance companies.”

Zipser explained that these ancillary companies are involved when agriculture is attacked.  “They, our consumers, and the very people that rely on the farmers and ranchers are attacked. [Those] who not only provide jobs, but also provide food in a safe and reliable food supply.”

Stanislaus-area farmers truly wanted to see Ag Unite happen, according to Zipser. They are pushing to get other farm bureaus to get involved and participate in events to keep the discussions going.  “Again, we only represent 1 percent of the population of the producers, so we have to speak with a loud voice,” he said.

One of the major, potentially devastating regulations for Stanislaus County farmers is the California Water Resources Control Board’s plan to take 40 percent of the water from the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers to increase flows in the Sacramento Delta for salmon.

Those who attended the meeting about the plan in December were not just farmers. They were teachers, public safety folks and the district attorney. According to Zipser, they all talked about what the potential devastation if 40 percent of the flow from the Tuolumne, Merced and Stanislaus rivers was diverted, and the impact to not only local economies, but even crime and school children.

“This is what unification is. It’s uniting and protecting our industry because it is our number one industry here in Stanislaus County. We have some of the biggest food processors in the world that reside right here in our county. It is vital for the health of our communities to push back and to fight this,” Zipser said.

Another regulation that passed last year was the overtime bill, which forces farmers to pay more overtime for the extra hours that Zipser said farm workers wanted to work to earn more money. Now, they’re going to get paid less.

“Sometimes, there is unintended consequences to legislation. It may be the very same people who wanted to protect those that they thought they were protecting … they’re hurting them because it’s going to reduce their hours, and it’s going to reduce money in their pocket,” Zipser said. “We don’t like that, because we want to make sure that our folks who are working for us in this industry are protected. Our farmers and ranchers do that without question. They are part of the family. Unintended consequences are what I believe that this overtime bill was going to create.”

Of course, the farm industry wants everyone to thrive: the pruners, the tractor drivers, the welders, the harvester, the irrigators, and the mechanics.

According to Zipser, farmers were talking about how some of these workers have been employed with them for 20 to 40 years, have bought homes and put their kids through college and have thrived.

“This is the way they did business in the past, and somebody comes along and they want to change it all up. Again, an unintended consequence. That farm worker who could send their child through college might not be able to now or won’t be able to buy that home, and that is the American dream. We want to buy a home and we want to make a better life for our kids. Sometimes things step in the way of that,” Zipser said.

“The farmers contribute so much, if you take everything into consideration. They are truly our folks who are heroes.”


Ag Unite Works to Bridge Gap with Consumers

Ag Unite Program Brings Industry Together

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor


The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau was recognized recently with a Program of Excellence Award from the American Farm Bureau. California Ag Today spoke to Wayne Zipser, a walnut and almond grower and Executive Director of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, about the news.

“About one of 20 counties throughout the nation are selected for their unique programs. We submitted our Ag Unite, a kind of brand that started in Butte County Farm Bureau. The theme is Uniting Agriculture, getting all the industry together, not just farm bureau members, but the industry together in one room at one time to talk about how we can come together and unite our industry. We can be a stronger industry. Stronger with a stronger voice” Zipser said.

“We had over a thousand people at the Ag Pavilion in Modesto Junior College last May. We brought in a couple of guest speakers, but the theme of it was, again, uniting our industry together to make a stronger voice.”

Zipser said the inspiration for Ag Unite came from Colleen Aguilar of the Butte County Farm Bureau. “It was her idea; she wanted it to be brought down through the other farm bureaus to not only raise awareness, but to raise money and be a stronger political voice. We did that. It was very, very successful, and Colleen was the brainchild of this.”

Aguilar and the staff from the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau were in Phoenix recently at the American Farm Bureau meeting, where they received the award.

“It was collective effort. We did the application and, certainly, we included Butte County Farm Bureau,” Zipser said. “We must get farmers and ranchers involved in the political process. We’ve seen more than a thousand people come together in Modesto on a water hearing last month and that was a show of unity,” he said.   “I think it’s vastly important in agriculture, because there’s so few of us producers. We need to come together and unify ourselves and to stand up to these over-burdensome regulations that are facing us every year and every day in California,” he added.

Part of that gap that they need to fill is between the farming industry and consumers. “I think there is a parallel between the producer and the consumer because we all want to have safe and reliable food supply. We are continuing to work with our consumers to make sure that they feel that they’re getting the value, not only in the value of the product that they’re consuming, but also the safety and the reliability of it as well,” Zipser said.

A clever way they are staying in touch is through YouTube. There are film clips available from both Butte and Stanislaus counties if users type in “Ag Unite.” Local offices for both farm bureaus can also be contacted for information.


Bridging the Farm-City Gap

Stanislaus Outreach Bridges Farm-City Gap  

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Wayne Zipser, executive director of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, noted that he, his staff and farm bureau members are working hard to bridge the farm-city gap. “We certainly do a lot of outreach,” Zipser said. “We mainly try to reach out to our young people and change their attitudes towards production agriculture.”

“We teach them where their food actually comes from,” he explained, “so when they grow older, they have a different opinion and know exactly where their food comes from—not just from the grocery store off the grocery shelf. It takes a lot of people to make that happen so consumers can appreciate the nutritious food they are consuming.”

”We have several Ag Days in the County. We visit schools individually and do presentations,” said Zipser. “One of the big presentations is something we call ‘Ag Adventure.’ We bring third graders because we’ve been told that third grade is when they absorb the most information into their minds.”

“We bring classes out to the fairgrounds and introduce every child to our industry, to where their milk and eggs come from. We also talk about how rain and snow filter down into reservoirs for storage. The teachers are also become immersed; they take the lessons back to the classroom and apply them to their own curriculum.”

Zipser explained the staff is big on social media now, “Social media benefits our industry; almonds being the number one commodity—but we’ve all heard it takes one gallon of water to produce one almond. We want to go back and say, “Look, it may take that, but look at the benefits coming back to the community.”

“One of our biggest outreaches is letting people know that our farmers and ranchers are suffering through this drought too,” Zipser said. “We, as producers, are suffering, and we have made tremendous strides in conserving water. We see many of the irrigation districts in our county now have extra water that they didn’t know they were going to have because the farmers did such a good job conserving,” Zipser clarified.

Farmers Are Doing the Right Thing for Dry Creek

Stanislaus County Farm Bureau Works With Growers to Clean up Dry Creek

By Laurie Greene, Editor,

Wayne Zipser is the Executive Director of the Stanislaus Farm Bureau and co-founder of the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition. Wayne spoke with California Ag Today about his work with both organizations and how farmers are doing the right thing.

Zipser addressed new nitrogen reporting standards for members of the coalition, “We’re the very first coalition in the Central Valley that will be required to report nitrogen use and that’s one of the things growers probably have not had to do yet. Right now they have to do their farm evaluation plans; they were due last year, but they had to be renewed this year.”

“The other coalitions will follow suit,” he said, “but we are the first coalition to require this for our growers. We’ve been successful; we’ve had success stories on a lot of our watersheds and we’ve actually improved our water quality. Part of being the first kids on the block is seeing the success stories,” Zipser said.

“One of the success stories involves Modesto’s Dry Creek, which was impaired with crop protection materials. Four years ago, the regional water board told us that we had to come up with a mitigation plan for all of our impaired water bodies. Well, all of them are impaired, so we had to create a priority list, and Dry Creek was one of the top priority watersheds in Modesto,” Zipser said.

“We visited with every grower along Dry Creek, just to let them know what the problems were and what we were finding. They generated their own solutions or we suggested some best management practices to mitigate problems. For the last two-and-a-half to three years, we have shown zero exceedences in the pesticides we are monitoring,” Zipser said.

“Farmers are out there doing the right thing. We showed them each problem, and they fixed it on their own. It doesn’t necessarily take rules and regulations to force people to do things. I congratulate all those farmers along Dry Creek. We also addressed issues along Lateral 5 on the Turlock Irrigation District.  As we continue to visit more the watersheds,” Zipser said, “we talk to those growers and see extreme improvements,” he said.

Zipser emphasized that most farmers just needed to be alerted about a watershed problem, and they readily collaborated to fix it. “They are all concerned about it,” he said. They all want to make sure they are doing the right thing. They also don’t want to lose access to the materials they have now, so they don’t want them to flow into the waterway and cause a problem down the road. I’ll tell you, it reinvigorates my belief that people want to do the right thing.”

Zipser acts as a grower representative of the Coalition, “If a grower has questions on how to fill out forms or on compliance issues, they can call me at the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau office.”


Contact Information:

Stanislaus County Farm Bureau

1201 L Street

PO Box 3070

Modesto, CA 95353-3070

(209) 522-7278 Phone

(209) 521-9938 Fax