Agricultural business leaders from throughout the state met in Napa, California this past week for Agricultural Council of California’s Annual Meeting, which was held March 7 and 8 in conjunction with CoBank’s Pacific West Customer meeting.
“There is no doubt that being involved in agriculture in California is challenging,” said Carl Hoff, Ag Council Chairman and president and CEO of Butte County Rice Growers Association, during his opening remarks. “We are lucky to have a staff that comes from agriculture, understands those challenges, and is heavily engaged in the political scene in Sacramento.”
Hoff recognized the work of Ag Council’s staff, including President Emily Rooney and Vice President of Government Affairs Tricia Geringer for their work as he touched on some of the major issues that California farmers and processors are facing, including challenges surrounding water supply and storage, nitrates in drinking water, and the state’s stringent air emission standards.
“But, there are bright spots too,” he added. “The outlook for exports continues to be strong, and a weaker U.S. dollar will lead to even more demand for California agricultural products throughout the world, which is good news for Ag Council and its members.”
In her annual address, Emily Rooney, president of Ag Council, also underscored the challenges of working within California’s political climate.
“Ninety-five percent of California’s population is considered urban according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” she said. “This creates challenges on the legislative front, because so many people are several generations removed from the family farm that many well-intended bills end up conflicting with good agricultural practices.”
As a result, Ag Council has continued to find innovative ways to educate legislators from diverse backgrounds and make California agriculture relevant in their policy priorities. One of those efforts was the Buy American legislation SB 730 (Pan). The bill was championed last year by Ag Council and after it was signed into law, it established important steps for the California Department of Education to comply with the federal provision requiring that school districts purchase domestic products for the school lunch program.
Rooney discussed Ag Council’s efforts in other areas, and a more detailed accounting of the organization’s advocacy work can be found in the 2017 Impact Report, which was released during the annual meeting. A full copy can be accessed at www.agcouncil.org.
California Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) was the keynote speaker during Ag Council’s Annual Dinner on Wednesday, March 7. Her diverse background as the daughter of a high school ag instructor and co-owner of a walnut orchard with her family means that she brings a more moderate approach to some of the issues impacting her constituents.
“We need to collaborate with both sides of the aisle,” she said. “I want to see us achieve the state’s climate goals without pushing agriculture and business out of the state.”
A highlight of the Annual Dinner was the presentation of $10,000 to the Redwood Empire Food Bank to assist those affected by the recent fires in Northern California.
The General Session held the following day featured California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, who spoke about several of her department’s initiatives to promote California agriculture; Dr. Michael Boland, Professor and Director at the University of Minnesota Food Industry Center who discussed food labeling and consumer trends and how they are shaping production and processing practices; and, Chuck Connor, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.
The 99th Annual Meeting of Ag Council concluded with a luncheon that honored Ben Curti as the recipient of the 2018 California Cultivator Award. Curti is a life-long dairyman from the Tulare area.
Founded in 1919, Agricultural Council of California is a member-supported organization advocating for more than 15,000 farmers across California, ranging from farmer-owned businesses to the world’s best-known brands. Ag Council serves as the farmers’ voice in California government.
For more information about Ag Council’s Annual Meeting, visit www.agcouncil.org.