Weather is seldom accurately predictable, and neither is politics in California. Three issues ago, I wrote about my hopes for a great outcome in the Nov. 2 election and how it would affect California agriculture in the years ahead. Just like this year’s fall harvest season, it has been challenging and not exactly gone according to plan.
At first glance, it might seem like the state came up short in electing agriculture-friendly candidates. But on closer review, although we definitely have challenges, we also have several reasons to be optimistic. While a great deal of attention and advertising dollars were focused on the races for governor, U.S. Senate and statewide offices, there were many congressional, state Senate and Assembly positions being contested.
In all, 81 percent of the candidates supported by the California Farm Bureau Fund to Protect the Family Farm (FARM PAC) were victorious, and 70 percent of the candidates endorsed by the CFBF Board of Directors were elected. The state’s voters agreed with CFBF on seven of the nine statewide propositions that will have long-reaching ramifications for all Californians.
The California Farm Bureau and FARM PAC have focused on developing relationships and supporting candidates who are from non-agricultural areas, as well as our rural regions. That is why we will continue to be successful in the future, especially with the implementation of fairer redistricting – to have officeholders better reflect their constituencies – and the open primary, which will reduce the stranglehold party bosses have held on primary elections.
We believe we have many reasons to be optimistic that reaching out to urban legislators will bear fruit. Fiona Ma, an assemblywoman representing the San Francisco area, has been on more than 20 farm tours. Her votes on agricultural issues have been invaluable. Likewise, Sen. Curren Price, representing a key district in the Los Angeles area, helped carry the Williamson Act provision by Assemblyman Jim Nielsen on the Senate floor, which ultimately received the unanimous support of both the Senate and the Assembly.
New Headway With Legislators?
There are many other examples of urban legislators understanding the challenges facing California farmers and ranchers today, and understanding how those challenges affect the availability and price of food and the other agricultural products for their urban constituents, as well as the economic stimulus agriculture provides to our state’s economy.
The general election was just like this year’s harvest – it was challenging and there were high points and low points – but now we must get on with the task at hand and work to make the future successful. My harvest season saw an untimely blown engine on a nut harvester, rain on my almonds and walnuts, as well as a gremlin running through the electrical system at my walnut huller. But we’ve made it through. The nuts got harvested with a higher cost than expected, a new engine is being installed in the harvester and the gremlin is gone. Boy, are we set for next year!
You will be hearing much over the next year to support FARM PAC and your commodity PACs as well, as we work together to elect farm-friendly candidates in 2012. We can leave our political future to chance, or we can redouble our efforts to make sure we are more successful in the future. Not replacing a blown engine on a perfectly good harvester is guaranteed failure. We can do better. We must do more!
A good friend of mine by the name of Cy Young relayed a story from his youth: His uncle, Fleetwood Young, saw his entire crop of beans go to ruin from an unexpected torrent of rain while in the windrow with the harvesters two days away. After watching his uncle’s entire crop and expectation for a successful harvest go to waste, Cy asked him, “What now?” Fleetwood replied, “Next year we’ll plant the seed a little deeper.”
What he was saying was: We’re not giving up; we’ll just work a little harder, a little longer, and we’ll make it next year. It is that pioneering spirit that must drive all of us in agriculture.
We can change our political future in California, but we’re going to need to work a little harder and a little longer, and invest more to get it done.
Paul Wenger is president of the California Farm Bureau Federation and farms in Modesto, Calif. This column was previously published in the CFBF newsletter at www.cfbf.com.