A letter from Darren Rice, Butte County Farm Bureau 1st Vice President
The Butte County Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization led by farmers and ranchers – the people you know. In fact, one of your neighbors is probably on our Board of Directors.
But what does grassroots organization mean? 2016 is a perfect year to reflect on what it means to be a grassroots organization. In 2015 the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) passed the California Legislature. SGMA put in motion a requirement for counties to establish a sustainable groundwater management plan in phases. 2016 was the year that Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) were established to come together in 2017 to start working on what the groundwater management plan for Butte County may look like.
The GSA’s represent the people in their areas in the SGMA process. So who are your GSA’s? The irrigation districts were eligible and applied to be GSA’s, however that left a large portion of Butte County growers out of the conversation. Those not farming in and paying into a surface water irrigation district where to be represented by the Butte County Department of Water and Resource Conservation (the County). Concerned growers in the “White Area’s” weren’t being adequately represented, the BCFB pulled members of the agriculture community together to advocate for their need to be represented. This resulted in the formation of the Groundwater Pumpers Advisory Committee (GPAC) to advise the County going forward in how they feel the groundwater management plan should look and to ensure ALL growers are represented.
That is what it means to be grassroots. To start from the bottom, gather people and work together to represent agriculture and growers. That is what Farm Bureau does for you every day.
We work vigorously here in Butte County and Sacramento talking, educating and providing information to County supervisors, legislators and regulators by advocating for farmers, Ag businesses, property rights, water rights and to protect growers from excess taxes like oppressively burdensome laws. We advocate for common sense solutions.
You can no longer afford to just skim the surface of information in front of you. Farming has changed and will never be the same as it was when our fathers and grandfathers were farming. Keeping up with the deadlines and requirements of regulation and rules most of which are government related are going to be part of your daily farming and ranching requirements. People often call the BCFB office and ask “how do you get rid of this regulation?” The short answer is you can’t. We as farmers have a tremendous talent of ignoring an issue until it’s pushed in our face; we can’t do that anymore. Many of the regulations we are burdened with start in small areas. The rest of agriculture turns a blind eye and says “oh that’s that areas problem, it doesn’t affect me.” That’s not true! State agencies and environmental organizations have a time and time again, used the strategy of starting small and ultimately spreading the regulation or law suit across the State. It works because ag traditionally does not unite. It’s time for that to change.
So what can you do? It’s simple: Join Farm Bureau. It’s time for ag to get back to its grassroots, come together from the ground up and effect change. If we all joined together, we would be unstoppable. No more balking at commodity or political boundaries. We need to work together. Coming together, joining our roots to hold each other up is how we are going to be able to protect our future and ensure stability for future generations.
Farm Bureau represents all of agriculture and is the best resource to help you fight for your farm. Though you may have been at odds with certain positions in the past, it’s time to look past that and look towards the future. Get involved! And Farm Bureau can help you so you are not navigating the complicated regulatory systems alone. There is literally an alphabet soup of programs and agencies who are all looking to get something from you. The BIT program DPR, WDR, CVFPP, BRCP, SGMA, CUPA, NMP, SALC and WOTUS. I could go on but I won’t.
I tell you this not because I want to elevate your blood pressure. I want you to understand the need to pay attention, be engaged and keep informed. But how? Open every envelope, read every industry email, newsletter and alert, follow your commodity groups Facebook page, make notes on the margins of Ag Alert and don’t be afraid of conference calls, webinars and podcasts. Learn to use tools like California Farm Bureau Federation Farm Team to communicate quickly and effectively with your elected officials.
As a Farm Bureau member, you have access to lots of information. Please take time to attend the many classes Butte County Farm Bureau offers like heat illness prevention, safety training, CPR training, hazmat transportation, nitrogen management plan self-certification and Grower Day.
At the beginning of this column I talked about SGMA. I wish I could tell you that was the only issue of concern for the Farm Bureau. We continue to fight the invasion of commercial marijuana, the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program continues to change and require more reporting, heat illness requirements, over time pay, minimum wage, you name it! The issues keep coming and we want to be a reliable resource for growers.
We are your advocate and your partner with the rest of the more than 1300 Butte County Farm Bureau members. If you are a member, thank you for your commitment and belief in Farm Bureau. If you are not a member, please consider joining our Farm Bureau. Please call Kayla Wheeler at 530-533-1473 and she can answer your questions and help you get signed up. You can also join online or print and mail an application.
What are you waiting for?