Commentary: Ag Day at the Capitol highlights goodwill for farmers

Issue Date: March 27, 2013
By Rich Matteis
Rich Matteis During Ag Day festivities at the state Capitol, California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, left, serves a student a lunch made of California-grown food from the “World’s Largest School Lunch Tray.”
Photo/Matt Salvo
Display of farm machinery.
Photo/Matt Salvo
The event drew large crowds.
Photo/Matt Salvo
Rich Matteis

Given the ups and downs of weather and markets, and the constant crush of new requirements and regulations that affect the way they go about their jobs, farmers and ranchers sometimes feel besieged. But Americans hold a deep reservoir of goodwill toward farmers and ranchers—and that goodwill was evident at the annual Ag Day at the Capitol celebration held in Sacramento last week.

Legislators, their staff members and throngs of other people turned out on the west steps of the Capitol on Ag Day to sample California-grown food, get up close to farm animals, accept bouquets of flowers and—this was at the Capitol, after all—hear a couple of brief speeches.

The chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, Susan Talamantes Eggman, told the Ag Day crowd of her pride in being a member of a four-generation family of beekeepers and her gratitude for being part of the $43 billion California agricultural economy.

The chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Cathleen Galgiani, pointed out that throughout the state budget crisis, agriculture remained an important part of the California economy. She introduced the Senate President Pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg, who said Californians should never take for granted the importance and hard work of the people who work in California agriculture.

State Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross stressed the "abundant choice" that the state's farms and ranches provide, and said Gov. Brown and his administration want to be sure that all of the state's students have access to "healthy, safe, California-grown foods."

To underline that, Secretary Ross distributed California-grown food to some of the hundreds of schoolchildren who came to the event to enjoy lunch from what she proclaimed to be the World's Largest School Lunch Tray—an 8-by-10-foot reproduction of the trays used in many school cafeterias. From that big tray, volunteers filled regular-sized lunch trays and provided students with a nutritious variety of California products.

Meanwhile, people who visited the Capitol lawn circulated among a variety of booths to pick up food samples, to meet some of the people who produce that food and to learn a little about what it takes to bring California-grown farm products to market. Farm Bureau was well-represented at the event; our California Bountiful Foundation affiliate passed out stickers to people who identified themselves as Calivores—those who seek out California-grown food and farm products.

There was a big crowd, undeterred by cloudy skies and occasional rain, and happy to share in an event that Secretary Ross called "the one day of the year that we can all come together to celebrate the bounty that we're blessed with."

For farmers and ranchers, events such as Ag Day at the Capitol, and many similar events held around California, offer a chance to reinforce the support that our neighbors have for us. Numerous public opinion surveys through the years have shown that Americans rank farmers among the most-respected professions—in fact, a survey released last year gave farmers the highest ranking among respected professions in the U.S., just ahead of nurses and doctors.

As research by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance has showed, people who respect farmers and ranchers still express some concerns about certain aspects of farming and ranching—and that brings us back to what goes on inside the Capitol.

Every year brings new legislation that threatens to undermine farming and ranching. Those of us who work for Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations make sure that legislators know how those bills could affect farmers and ranchers. But no one tells the farmers' story better than farmers and ranchers themselves.

As the legislative season continues, keep an eye on Ag Alert®, sign up for FARM TEAM email alerts and be sure to make your voice heard. That's the best way to be certain that the goodwill expressed for farmers and ranchers on Ag Day carries through to the decisions made in Sacramento all year long.

(Rich Matteis is administrator of the California Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted at

See more photos from Ag Day at the Capitol.

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