CFBF president's message: It’s all about choice and yours will be important

Issue Date: October 15, 2014
Paul Wenger

It's that time of the season again. Many of us are focused on our harvest, which is in full swing—while for others, harvest is done and attention is now focused on a few days' rest, or putting equipment away and getting ready to start laying the foundation for next year's crop. While we are busy or otherwise distracted with the day-to-day management we undertake, it can be easy to overlook a biennial election that can have an even greater or longer impact on our farms and ranches.

Absentee ballots will be arriving in many of our mailboxes this week, with Election Day being Nov. 4. It is extremely important that farmers, ranchers and rural residents turn out and vote.

This year's election will be highlighted by Proposition 1: the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. The water bond, as it's often called, was put on the ballot by a near-unanimous vote of the Legislature and signed immediately by Gov. Brown, giving voters the opportunity to weigh in on whether or not California needs to finally improve its outdated and grossly undersized water infrastructure. The Legislature put partisanship aside in recognition that California needs to invest in its future, and we must all follow suit.

Proposition 1 deserves your support. If Californians fail to pass the water bond, in what is clearly the most intense drought California has experienced given our current water demands, it will have serious consequences for decades to come. The water bond certainly won't change our water woes overnight, but it will signal that California understands the need for water reliability, which could be the beginning for greater reforms to better manage our current water system.

The water bond is followed on the ballot by Proposition 2, the Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Fund Act. This is also worthy of your support, as it puts into the state constitution the mandate that future Legislatures cannot spend increased income that the state may have received from one-time sources.

Legislatures love to spend money and usually, those expenditures lead to years of financial commitment, even though the revenues came from short-term receipts. That is what has led to our state's overspending in past years. Proposition 2 will mimic what most businesses do when things are good financially: They save for future needs and for when revenues fall short of what was expected.

This general election will also see the second iteration of our top-two primary system, which was approved by voters in 2010. California agriculture has used this opportunity to reach out to business-friendly Democratic candidates in legislative districts with high Democratic registration, to give voters the opportunity to vote for someone beyond the choice of the party leaders.

We were successful in 2012, with many freshman legislators taking a personal interest in the issues before them, rather than relying solely on the party leadership for direction and guidance. Many of those legislators visited farms and ranches throughout our state, realizing how the plight of California agriculture impacts their constituents, even if they had little or no agriculture in their district.

Along with the top-two primary came the change in term limits for legislators, whereby a legislator can now serve a total of 12 years, irrespective of whether it is in the Assembly or Senate. That means this year's election and the 2016 election will significantly influence the make-up of our Legislature through 2024.

Farm Bureau worked with other agricultural and business organizations during the June primary, to identify candidates worthy of your support, even if they may not be from your political party. We looked for candidates who understood the debilitating effects of process-driven overregulation and understood that a government cannot tax it citizenry into prosperity. Through the generous and committed contributions by our members to FARM PAC, the California Farm Bureau Fund to Protect the Family Farm, we were able to support credible candidates who will bring moderation to our state Legislature.

The slates have been set; now, it is your turn to decide. If we are to break the gridlock of the past and reduce the influence of political elitists who see California for what it was rather than what is today—and more importantly, what it can be in the future—we must show up and vote.

It's all about choices. Please vote, either by absentee or at your polling place, and make your vote count.

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