Farm Bureau: Working for you 2013


Issue Date: December 25, 2013
CFBF First Vice President Kenny Watkins, President Paul Wenger and Second Vice President Jamie Johansson.
Conserving farmland
Making our voice heard
Helping you grow and market your products
Enhancing water supply and quality
Managing production costs
Standing up against onerous regulation
Reaching out

Thank you for your membership in Farm Bureau. With your Farm Bureau membership, you are joining together with fellow farmers, ranchers and allied agricultural businesspeople, to multiply your ability to protect your farm, as well as all family farms and ranches in America's No. 1 agricultural state.

Farm Bureau defines grassroots involvement because our advocacy starts at the local level with the dedicated service and representation provided by 53 county Farm Bureaus. That grassroots power extends to the nation's largest farm organization, the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The California Farm Bureau Federation is proud to work with the volunteers and staff at our county and national levels, to benefit the people who keep food on our plates, clothes on our backs and beauty in our landscapes. On the following pages, you'll see a brief summary of topics and services our organization engaged in during 2013.

Keep in mind that this merely scratches the surface of the issues on which Farm Bureau advocates on behalf of family farmers and ranchers. Your continued membership makes it all possible, and I believe this report demonstrates that Farm Bureau truly is working for you. 

Conserving farmland

During 2013, Farm Bureau:

  • Encouraged farmers to remain engaged with the progress of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, which threatens significant impacts on farmland, and maintained a special Flood Protection page on the CFBF website to allow landowners to track the plan's status.
  • Established through a court case that an agricultural conservation easement is a legally permissible tool to mitigate for conversion of agricultural lands.
  • Analyzed rules proposed by the state for the creation of solar use easements on farmland; the rules enact a Farm Bureau-supported law to encourage development of solar facilities on marginal and impaired land.
  • Urged the California Coastal Commission to view agriculture as part of the solution to protecting coastal resources and told the commission its regulations harm coastal agriculture.
  • Made information available via the CFBF website to agricultural landowners about the eminent domain land acquisition process, to help landowners in the path of large infrastructure projects understand their rights during eminent domain procedures.
  • Reached a settlement with the California Department of Transportation about farmland impacts from a highway bypass in Willits that will lead to a study of the compatibility of farmland and environmental mitigation.
  • Called attention to the impact on natural resources from illegal marijuana cultivation, with damage to both public and privately owned land from trespass marijuana grows. 

Making our voice heard

During 2013, Farm Bureau:

  • Rallied support for meaningful reform of federal immigration law through ongoing contacts with members of Congress and appearances in the news media.
  • Surveyed nearly 550 farmers and ranchers in a second annual effort to gauge farmers' ability to hire enough on-farm employees; analyzed results for distribution to congressional offices and media in support of immigration reform.
  • Successfully advocated for more federal support for California Department of Food and Agriculture programs that protect animal and plant health, to offset cuts in state funding for these essential programs.
  • Coordinated a grassroots effort of Farm Bureau members in support of continuing the Agricultural Education Incentive Grant program, which is threatened for removal from the state budget.
  • Co-sponsored listening sessions on proposed rules under the federal Food Safety Modernization Act and led a coalition of agricultural groups drafting comments on the act, stressing the need to revise and simplify the rules.
  • Generated nearly 8,400 emails and letters to elected officials and government agencies via 13 FARM TEAM Action Alerts, which provided FARM TEAM members with background and talking points on key issues.
  • Participated in an Ag Unite event organized by seven county Farm Bureaus to emphasize the need for greater political involvement by farmers and formation of a legal defense fund to participate in key court cases.
  • Led a large coalition of organizations to support programs important to California farmers and ranchers within federal farm legislation, such as an air-quality improvement program and initiatives to enhance marketing, trade, research, animal-health laboratories and specialty-crop production.
  • Provided Farm Bureau members with training on the skills needed to run for elective office by holding a Campaign Management Seminar for 27 prospective candidates.
  • Renewed a call for rural property owners to file a protest when paying fire prevention "fees," and provided online information on how to do so while the fee remains under legal challenge.
  • Organized multiple trips to government offices in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento, so farmers and ranchers could meet face to face with elected representatives and officials of government agencies. 

Helping you grow and market your products

During 2013, Farm Bureau:

  • Hosted a first-of-its-kind meeting among beekeepers, farmers and representatives of public and private organizations, to discuss how to improve honeybee populations by allowing beekeepers access to more bee forage on both public and privately managed land.
  • Supported removal of the gray wolf as a listed species under the federal Endangered Species Act and participated on an advisory committee with other livestock groups as state officials prepare a wolf management plan.
  • Submitted comments supporting proposed rules for country-of-origin meat labeling, saying the rules would provide shoppers with valuable information.
  • Worked with allied organizations and the California Highway Patrol to avoid disruption in the movement of agricultural products, as the CHP extended a provision that continues current rules for securing farm goods on trucks while a federal agency finalizes new regulations.
  • Successfully sought a temporary waiver from federal trucking rules that could endanger livestock, by working with other livestock organizations to seek changes to regulations requiring rest breaks of specified length for truck drivers.
  • Avoided a county-by-county patchwork of rules governing community-supported agriculture operations, by successfully advocating for legislation to establish a statewide definition and food safety procedures.
  • Remained active on many fronts to support continued use of fumigants needed to clean soil for producing crops, and encouraged continued research on methods for attacking soil-borne pests.
  • Surveyed livestock owners on their preparation for fires, floods or other emergencies, and shared findings with officials working on disaster planning for farm animals and their owners. 

Enhancing water supply and quality

During 2013, Farm Bureau:

  • Worked with water district representatives and others to establish clear expectations about how to amend a water bond proposed for the 2014 ballot, and continued to strongly support guaranteed funding for new surface storage in any revised bond measure.
  • Emphasized new water storage as a key element, in commenting on a draft California Water Action Plan released by three state agencies. 
  • Opposed a state water board plan to limit diversions from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced river watersheds, saying the plan would harm farms and other human water uses without guaranteeing benefits to protected fish.
  • Pursued efforts to make new agricultural water regulations for the Central Coast region less onerous, cooperating with other agricultural organizations to seek modifications of the rules.
  • Took a lead role in identifying costs of compliance with new regional water quality standards, to make sure regulators understand the cost burdens on farmers and ranchers. 
  • Provided resources to farmers and ranchers to help them complete oil-spill prevention plans as required under federal and state rules. 
  • Earned an encouraging court ruling on a Ventura County water district's rate-setting practices for agricultural water use, when the court ruled that a section of the Water Code that sets different groundwater use rates for municipal and agricultural purposes was not unconstitutional. 
  • Participated in proceedings involving the Delta Stewardship Council, Bay-Delta Conservation Plan and State Water Resources Control Board affecting statewide agricultural water supplies. 

Managing production costs

During 2013, Farm Bureau: 

  • Actively participated in the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, which negotiated an enhanced agricultural immigration program included in immigration reform legislation passed by the U.S. Senate; pressed for similar reform in the House of Representatives. 
  • Successfully opposed state legislation that would have expanded mandatory mediation and could have imposed unionization on farm employees years after an initial vote; the bill was shelved for the year. 
  • Worked to defeat state legislation that would have imposed a new tax on all fertilizers sold; the bill stalled in the Legislature. 
  • Successfully worked to prevent passage this year of a bill that would have granted broad, new authority to the California Coastal Commission to impose administrative fines. 
  • Advocated for successful state legislation to extend several incentive programs for air quality improvement used by farmers and ranchers. 
  • Argued successfully for agricultural customers with small electric demand to be included among those receiving a portion of revenues allocated to utilities from greenhouse-gas auctions, and continued to advocate for this benefit for all other agricultural customers. 
  • Worked with state tax authorities to clarify that solar panels used to generate electricity for irrigation pumps or other farm equipment qualify for a partial exemption of sales and use taxes. 
  • Advocated successfully for a new state law to deter metal theft by cracking down on the proliferation of illegal scrap-metal recyclers. 
  • Worked for a new law that creates a fine of up to $5,000 for grand theft of livestock and dedicates those funds for the purpose of investigating livestock theft. 
  • Advocated before the California Public Utilities Commission to minimize energy rate impacts to agricultural customers and added electric-rate information to the CFBF website. 
  • Conducted seminars to help agricultural employers prepare for implementation of the Affordable Care Act. 

Increasing the benefit of membership

During 2013, Farm Bureau:

  • Provided a new discount on Case-IH tractors and equipment; Farm Bureau members qualify for a discount of $300 to $500, depending on the Case-IH model.
  • Partnered with off-road vehicle manufacturer Polaris to offer Farm Bureau members a discount on all-terrain and side-by-side vehicles.
  • Helped Farm Bureau members navigate the changing health-care landscape by offering insurance broker Keenan & Associates as a resource to Farm Bureau members.
  • Celebrated the centennial of California's first county Farm Bureau, in Humboldt County. 

Standing up against onerous regulation

During 2013, Farm Bureau:

  • Won a court ruling that a "fee" charged to holders of water rights is actually an unconstitutional tax; encouraged water right holders to continue to pay the charge under protest while the court case continues.
  • Co-sponsored successful legislation to extend a part of state endangered-species law that protects farmers and ranchers from accidental impacts to protected species during routine agricultural activities.
  • Joined in a lawsuit intended to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act on status reviews of six protected species, after the reviews indicated the species should be removed from protection or placed in a less-restrictive category.
  • Protested proposed federal protection for two frog species and the Yosemite toad, joining with other organizations in charging a federal agency with ignoring scientific findings that livestock grazing is unlikely to have caused declines of the species' populations.
  • Joined in a petition seeking a new hearing for Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to pursue the chance to continue its sustainable aquaculture operation in the Point Reyes National Seashore despite efforts by the U.S. Department of the Interior to oust it.
  • Continued to support Siskiyou County water users in an appeal by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, following a favorable court ruling that the department exceeded its authority by trying to require farmers and ranchers to obtain a permit before exercising their longstanding water rights.
  • Maintained support for water users along the Russian River watershed in an appeal by the State Water Resources Control Board, following a favorable court ruling that the board had issued unconstitutional regulations restricting irrigation for frost protection in order to benefit fish.
  • Monitored development of new air-quality rules affecting farm equipment. State officials decided to limit the first phase of the rules to eight San Joaquin Valley counties, with the next phase due to be developed in 2014.
  • Persuaded a state agency not to pursue changes in the successful heat illness protection standard.
  • Supported timber producers by opposing state protection for the northern spotted owl and by advocating for legislation to simplify timber thinning to reduce fire risk and to create a working forest management plan program.
  • Called for improvements to an updated state wildlife plan, saying the plan needs to recognize the habitat values provided by agriculture and to find ways to support those activities.
  • Engaged in the Brown administration's efforts to reform parts of Proposition 65 by ending "shakedown" lawsuits against businesses for allegedly failing to warn Californians about potential exposure to hazardous chemicals. 

Reaching out

During 2013, Farm Bureau:

  • Conducted extensive outreach about heat safety, including articles in Ag Alert®, information on the CFBF website and, for a sixth consecutive year, purchase of Spanish-language radio advertisements in key areas, containing information about how to work safely on hot days.
  • Redesigned and expanded the CFBF website at www.cfbf.com to make information easier to find and to speed online membership application and other services.
  • Maintained an active presence on social media via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest; designed mobile apps to benefit members attending the CFBF Leaders Conference, YF&R Leadership Conference and CFBF Annual Meeting.
  • Created Farm Bureau membership recruitment materials in Spanish, with new versions of the Benefits Guide and membership application.
  • Responded to more than 400 inquiries from reporters from California and throughout the nation.
  • Earned six national communications awards from the American Farm Bureau Federation, including awards for best magazine, print and video feature stories, graphic design, brochure and social media tool.
  • Provided scholarships totaling $226,200 to more than 70 students interested in pursuing agricultural careers, through the California Farm Bureau Scholarship Foundation.
  • Promoted Farm Bureau, the California Bountiful Foundation and California agriculture at events including the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, Colusa Farm Show, World Ag Expo, Ag Day at the Capitol and Agriculture Night with the Sacramento Kings.
  • Informed Farm Bureau members, legislators, news media and the public through publication of 46 issues of Ag Alert, six issues of California Bountiful magazine, 50 weekly airings of the California Bountiful television program, 50 editions of the weekly Food and Farm News service and 31 editions of Friday Review.

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