Commentary: Ag Unite, Farm Bureau keep your farm in the fight

Issue Date: December 7, 2016
By Jamie Johansson
Jamie Johansson speaks to an Ag Unite rally in Chico in 2013. The CFBF first vice president says Ag Unite stresses the need for farmers, ranchers and people who own or work in agricultural businesses to cooperate more closely on common issues.
Photo/Matt Salvo

It's the time of year when many of us look back to what has happened in the past year, and look ahead to what to expect in the year to come.

When you look through the headlines that have appeared in Ag Alert® during 2016, you're reminded of the challenges California farmers and ranchers deal with daily—challenges that have nothing to do with weather or markets:

Flood plans that could take land out of production; food-safety rules that leave farmers searching for answers; all of the water-related issues, from challenges to the water-rights system to proposed changes to the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program to river-flow plans that would deepen ongoing water shortages already worsened by endangered-species protections.

Then, of course, come delays in approval of H-2A visas, the increasing minimum wage and new agricultural-overtime rules; the government overreach in "waters of the U.S." regulation; the impact of forest-planning rules; proposed statewide regulation of pesticide use near schools—the list, unfortunately, goes on and on.

I go through that list not to discourage you—though heaven knows it's a daunting list.

No, I list those issues in order to make two points:

  • These issues all work across crops, commodities, regions and production methods. They could affect you whether you're a fifth-generation cattle rancher or a new farmer trying to succeed with a small plot of organic vegetables.
  • Farm Bureau is fighting for you on all of those issues, and many more.

At this time of year, Farm Bureau delegates come together at our Annual Meeting to discuss and set policies our organization will follow for the coming year. Those delegates come from every corner of California and grow the full spectrum of crops and commodities that make our state an agricultural powerhouse unlike any other.

This year, they come together under the theme, "Ag Unite: Keep Your Farm in the Fight." The theme originated from an idea born by California farmers and ranchers who concluded that those of us who farm, ranch or work in agricultural businesses need to unify—more than ever—in order to assure a viable future.

I was proud to have spoken at the first Ag Unite rally in my home county, Butte County, in 2013. Since then, there have been more Ag Unite events, including one that drew 800 people in Modesto this spring.

The key message of Ag Unite can be summarized this way: No matter what we grow or raise, no matter where we farm or ranch, no matter what production methods we use, we need to overcome our regional and commodity differences to work together on common issues—such as all those I listed earlier.

As our Annual Meeting this week demonstrates, Farm Bureau offers the forum to address those issues, through your membership in Farm Bureau and your contributions to the California Farm Bureau Fund to Protect the Family Farm (FARM PAC®) and the Ag Unite Legal Fund.

If you're reading this, chances are you're already a Farm Bureau member, but chances are you know someone who isn't—and should be. Maybe it's a neighbor, a friend, a business associate or even a family member.

Increased membership gives Farm Bureau increased clout at the local level—where a county Farm Bureau is often the only group at the table defending rural property owners—to the state and federal levels, where farmers and ranchers must speak to elected officials and agency leaders who often have no background in agriculture.

If you grow a crop represented by a commodity organization, you should belong to and support that organization—but you should be a Farm Bureau member, too. That's what Ag Unite is all about: pooling the resources of individual farmers and ranchers, and the organizations that represent them, for the benefit of all.

As my fellow Butte County farmer Rich McGowan said at the Ag Unite event this spring, all of us involved in agriculture should create a budget line item for political action. He commits money to both FARM PAC and the Ag Unite Legal Fund, and challenges other farmers and ranchers to do the same.

We need more of those commitments to be sure Farm Bureau can continue to represent you in the political arena, in the courts, in the media—wherever the need arises.

Ag Unite is not only an event or series of events; it's a movement. The Butte, Stanislaus and Tuolumne County Farm Bureaus will take the movement to the national stage next month, when they discuss their organization of Ag Unite during the trade show at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Phoenix.

I'm proud of what Ag Unite has accomplished so far, and excited by the possibilities still to come. By growing our membership and resources, we can extend the fight to make sure California remains open for business, for the businesses we operate.

I'm in. Are you? Is your neighbor?

(Jamie Johansson is first vice president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted at

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.