Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dairy meeting yields little progress

The state dairy task force meeting that was set for Wednesday apparently yielded little progress in getting short-term relief to struggling farmers.

From Jay Van Rein at the California Department of Food and Agriculture:
Statement by Secretary Karen Ross:

The Dairy Future Task Force is made up of dairy producers, processors and cooperatives asked to come together to find common ground upon which they can build a new, more stable and contemporary path for the dairy industry. The first session, held October 23-24, provided an opportunity to agree on a common fact base and develop a sense of what the group wants to accomplish in the coming months. The task force achieved alignment around a shared vision for the future of the California dairy industry which is a significant accomplishment and a key step toward long-term success. The initial session was designed to set the stage for the group to identify and build strategic pillars that will result in a robust, profitable, demand-driven dairy industry. I was impressed by the progress made and look forward to continuing this important work. I commend the group’s members for embracing their task and the difficult but critical discussions it entails.

Based on the discussion of concepts for potential short-term solutions, CDFA anticipates receiving a petition shortly and will evaluate it on an expedited basis. I very much look forward to working with the talented and passionate producers and processors who are willing to provide leadership to this very important sector of the agricultural community.

Background:

The California Department of Food and Agriculture and the entire dairy industry remain very concerned about the current crisis affecting many of our state's dairy families. The drought has resulted in extremely high feed prices at a time when dairies were already receiving low prices due to falling demand and over supply of milk. Many dairies are still trying to recover from the 2009 crisis which saw record losses in the industry and they simply didn't have enough equity to see them through this crisis.

Where possible, the Department has used the limited discretion it is given by law to provide appropriate adjustments, such as modifying the whey factor scale up to 50 cents per hundredweight based on commodity prices. Moreover, fluid milk prices have been rising to meet market conditions. The minimum price has increased approximately 30 percent since June 2012 and is now among the highest prices on record. Class 4b milk, which is used to make cheese, is also up in recent months by about 30 percent.

Looking ahead, members of the industry agree the path forward must include reforms to our pricing structure as a key step towards a better future. The Dairy Future Task Force will tackle these and other important issues by facilitating open, honest conversations between people personally invested in dairy farms and processing plants. Task force members were invited as individuals - not as representatives of associations or other organizations. There will be significant public vetting of various stages of the task force's work, which will strive to create consensus around short- and long-term solutions.

The deliberations of this group will proceed under the administrative oversight of the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) in a private setting that we hope will eliminate public posturing, hyperbole, and positioning for political gain. The task force is the first and probably most important step the industry can take to find agreement on a shared vision for the future and create an action plan for making that vision a reality.

Several years ago, CMAB showed leadership and took a bold step in commissioning a study which provided concepts for long-term sustainability and industry growth over a 20-year period. This kind of intense industry self-evaluation and critical analysis will set a firm foundation upon which the task force can build. The Department is confident the industry will seize this opportunity, find consensus and create the momentum necessary to implement meaningful changes that will ensure a more stable and healthy California dairy industry.

Dairy Future Task Force members:
David Ahlem, Hilmar
Joey Airoso, Tipton
Joe Augusto, Visalia
Tom Barcellos, Tipton
Marcus Benedetti, Petaluma
Ben Curti, Tulare
Rochelle De Groot, Hanford
Joe DeHoog, Ontario
Lucas Deniz, Petaluma
Eric Erba, Visalia
Frank Fereira, Red Bluff
Mike Gallo, Atwater
Dino Giacomazzi, Hanford
Dominic Grossi, Novato
Scott Hofferber, San Bernardino
Dennis Leonardi, Ferndale
Steve Maddox, Riverdale
J.T. Maldonado, Hanford
Tony Mendes, Riverdale
George Mertens, Sonoma
Rick Michel, Waterford
John Oostdam, San Jacinto
Brian Pacheco, Kerman
Ray Souza, Turlock
Sue Taylor, Denver
Arlan Van Leeuwen, Oakdale
Sybrand Vander Dussen, Chino
Simon Vander Woude, Merced

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fire fee opponents: Pay bills under protest




In the photos, from the top: Legislative aides Brenda Haynes (left) and Ashley Adishian prepare a sign to display; Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association legislative director Davie Wolfe speaks to reporters; and former state Sen. Doug LaMalfa shows a protest petition to a reporter.

Wolfe, LaMalfa and Assemblyman Jim Nielsen held a press conference today to discuss next steps on the controversial fire fees that are going out to rural landowners in the north state this month. They say property owners should pay their bills even though the fees are being challenged in court, so they don't incur fines.

You can find my complete story here. Affected residents are encouraged to attend a meeting with Wolfe and others at the Redding library, 1100 Parkview Ave., tonight beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Photo gallery: Sacramento dairy rally






On Thursday I went to Sacramento to cover dairy producers' rally on the steps of the state Capitol for fairer milk pricing, which you can read about here.

In the photos, from the top: Corey Schortzmann, Brittany Day, Jami Lady, Julia Lady and Allison Inlow of the Dairy Club at Fresno State University talk before the rally; dairy producers Corey Vanderham of Hanford, Calif., and Willemina and Rob Van Grouw of Visalia, Calif., stand with signs; Van Grouw uses a sign to shield herself from the sun; People stand with signs; and Gary Van Ryn of Visalia talks about the struggles his dairy is having.

California's milk price regulation system and its shortcomings are a complicated issue, and the Capital Press' Carol Ryan Dumas does an excellent job of laying it out here, as does the AP's Gosia Wozniacka with this story. The dairy rally website is here. For the state's explanation of how milk pricing works, go here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

4-Hers show the public their charitable side



In the photos, from the top: 13-year-old Travis Brunelle of Corning 4-H decorates water bottles that will be given out to the homeless; Westside 4-H member Nicky Parks, 9, and others try their hand at the craft; and 6-year-old Raven Osborne of Red Bluff decorates a dress that will be sent to a young girl in Africa.

The activity was one of many at the Tehama District Fair grounds on Saturday as 4-H held an open house, showing the public that the organization isn't just about raising animals. It was almost as busy as fair time at the grounds, as a children's resources day and a St. Elizabeth hospital-sponsored health fair were also being held.

For my full story on the 4-H open house, check CapitalPress.com later today.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Veep hopefuls sound off after debate

As the reporter who's covering the presidential race for the Capital Press, I thought it would be useful (or at least interesting) to sign up for the memos and e-mails the two campaigns send out to their supporters. Occasionally I've had second thoughts, as my inbox is often inundated by both camps.

But here is what vice-presidential combatants Joe Biden and Paul Ryan had to say "to me" after last night's debate.

From Biden, in a message simply titled, "Hey":
Tim,

I did my best to make you proud tonight.

But I hope you remember one thing: This debate wasn't about me, or Congressman Ryan.

It was about you, and what we're fighting for together.

So if you're standing with Barack and me, like we're standing with you, please chip in $5 or more to show it [...]
From Ryan, in an e-mail titled "Our fight":

Tim,

America is at a crossroads. We have a choice -- four more years of the same hardship and decline, or a new path. That choice was abundantly clear at last night's debate.

The American people want jobs. They want leadership they can believe in. They want our great nation to prosper again.

And they want leaders who'll fight for them -- and alongside them.

Mitt Romney and I, along with Republicans across the country, are fighting for America's comeback. And we're willing to fight for it -- because we believe our nation is at its best when individuals are allowed to pursue their dreams.

Mitt Romney and I believe that on November 6th, Americans will rise to the occasion. America will fix what needs fixing.
Both candidates ended by asking for donations.

Much has already been said and written about Biden's behavior during the debate. My take is that it pretty much summed up this administration's whole approach to governing. The way Biden responded to Ryan is how the EPA responds to us when we ask questions. It's how Deputy Ag Secretary Kathleen Merrigan reacts to people who criticize the new school lunch menu. In a milder form, it's how Merrigan responded to me when I asked her if the business roundtable she attended in May was an effort to improve a lackluster poll standing for President Obama on the economy. One sometimes gets the impression that these people wish they could just declare themselves dictators so they could dispense with all this pesky facing-us-ordinary-citizens stuff.

Incredibly, though, Biden wasn't the most obnoxious Democrat to step onto a debate stage last night.

Study: grape consumers keep healthy diets

A new study by a Northern California research group suggests that those who regularly consume fresh grapes, raisins or grape juice gravitate toward healthier overall eating habits.

The study, presented Tuesday at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition in Philadelphia, examined federal data on the diets of more than 21,800 children and adults.

Researchers funded by the Sacramento-based National Grape and Wine Initiative found that consumers of non-alcoholic grape products had increased intakes of total and whole fruit as well as dietary fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C and B6, according to a news release.

“I think it shows that not only do people who consume grapes and grape products tend to have larger consumption of other food items that are important to the diet, but they also show a tendency to consume less of those things they shouldn't eat,” said Jean-Mari Peltier, the Grape and Wine Initiative president.

For my complete story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Moisture in air slows valley rice harvest



In the photos, from the top: Larry Maben, a rice farmer near Willows, says he is about halfway through with harvest; he checks to see whether whole kernels made it through the combine and back onto the ground (not an outcome you would want); and his son, Russel Maben, operates the combine as a bankout keeps pace.

The harvest started a little later than growers expected because moisture in the air in the past few weeks has kept a higher-than-desired level of moisture in the rice. They expect to keep going into November; fortunately (for them, at least), there isn't any rain to speak of on the horizon.

Look for my full story at CapitalPress.com tomorrow.

Chico State slaps HSUS over 'Meatless' claim

The Humane Society of the United States has reportedly been forced to take down a press release claiming that California State University-Chico had embraced its "Meatless Mondays" vegetarian campaign.

From the blog HumaneWatch.org:
Since just 1 percent of the money the Humane Society of the U.S. raises is sent to pet shelters, people often ask us where the money does go. It goes to pay lobbyists and lawyers, to fund a wealthy pension plan, and to bankroll fundraising mills. It also goes to PETA-like anti-agriculture propaganda. One such campaign is Meatless Monday. Granted, HSUS wants meatless Monday through Sunday, but it will take anything that moves the goalposts in that direction bit by bit.

Last week, HSUS put out a press release claiming that California State University, Chico, was joining the ranks of schools using the Meatless Monday program. But students and alumni of Chico—which has a significant agriculture program—quickly revolted at the idea of their school becoming a pawn in the HSUS’s anti-meat crusade, and the school was quick to react.

The College of Agriculture ripped HSUS on Facebook:
While we fully support offering students plenty of options on the menu, including vegetarian, we object to the use of a political tactic like “meatless Monday,” used by HSUS to advance its anti-agriculture agenda, which is the opposite of what we teach students every day about land stewardship, humane animal handling, and the importance of a healthy, balanced diet.
Meanwhile, the University had this to say:
To respond to a number of posts on our site: A news release from the Humane Society of the United States about Chico State joining the “Meatless Mondays” program was inaccurate – this was an action taken by the Associated Students’ Dining Services, not the University. The AS has asked the HSUS to take the news release down, and the AS is currently reevaluating the decision to join the program. To be clear, what AS Dining Services has been planning for the Sutter Hall dining facility is 1 of 5 food stations offering vegetarian options on Mondays. The other stations all serve meat on Monday.
Last but not least, the dining services’ Director of Business and Finance added, “We were co-opted into this movement, and that was not our intent.”

It seems clear to us that HSUS is so obsessed with veganism and attacking meat that it will use just about any pretext for pushing the “meat-free” narrative, even when it’s totally false. Chico’s dining services was apparently always going to still offer meat on Mondays, but simply increase the number of vegetarian options on that day. Nothing wrong with offering more options, but there is something wrong with HSUS making it into something to fit its agenda of taking away options.

While the hacks over at “This Dish is Veg” still haven’t apparently gotten the memo, HSUS has. The press release is no longer on HSUS’s website, and its PETA-esque activists now have fake egg on their faces.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What the winter may be like

The Old Farmer's Almanac has come out with its forecast of winter weather in California. From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
If you're looking for a sign about what the weather will be like this winter, the Old Farmer's Almanac says the stormiest periods will come in mid-November, mid-to-late January and early March in the Pacific Southwest. That forecast region includes much of California, from the Bay Area southward. The almanac's editors predict overall rainfall to be slightly below average in the Bay Area and above average elsewhere.
As I've been told, we're heading back into an El Nino pattern, so most of the storms figure to mainly target areas south of Sacramento. How much rain we get in the Redding area will depend on the strength of the pattern.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Table olive harvest ongoing in valley



IN the pictures, from the bottom this time: Elliott Patton releases bins of olives from a tractor; Patton and Felix Barbo pick leaves and other debris from harvested olives; and Barbo stacks bins to be moved and stored in the shade.

The pictures were taken yesterday at the La Conda Ranch in Corning.

The harvest of table olives is ongoing in the Central Valley. It's a decent sized crop -- much better than last year -- but the work to harvest it is slow because of the labor shortage that we and other news organizations have been reporting on this year.

For my story on the olive harvest, check CapitalPress.com later today.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Podcast examines agriculture and elections

This week's front-page story on the presidential campaigns' stances on agricultural issues is among the topics discussed in the Capital Press' latest podcast.

The podcast is featured each week on our flagship blog, Blogriculture.

To listen, click here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The real 'Gang of 500'

This week I had the pleasure of confirming my 500th friend on Facebook, which I use almost entirely to disseminate news from the Capital Press and posts from this blog. It started as a way to publicize local stories for people who aren't in agriculture and wouldn't otherwise be exposed to Capital Press. As we've placed more and more emphasis on breaking news online, it's also become a way to let people in ag know what's new and relevant on our website.

Anyway, adding my 500th friend got me to thinking of Time magazine's Mark Halperin's so-called "Gang of 500," which Wikipedia describes as "political insiders and journalists who influence the daily media narrative in US politics." Now maybe I'm being harsh, but could anything more epitomize the arrogance and out-of-touch nature of the Beltway media than a self-proclaimed who's-who list? And judging from statements like this and comments like these, I'll bet Halperin's exclusive club doesn't include Rush Limbaugh, or Matt Drudge, or Bill O'Reilly, or Glenn Beck -- all of whom contribute to the national political conversation in significant ways. They're definitely more influential to the "media narrative" than some unnamed lobbyist. Heck, the list probably doesn't include Capital Press DC correspondent Jerry Hagstrom, who works in the same Beltway as Halperin and talks to many of the same people.

You know, when it comes to knowing what's going on out in the country and knowing how to grow a crop, meet a payroll or help a neighbor, I think I'd put my Gang of 500 up against Halperin's any day of the week. I have journalists and newspaper professionals but also businesspeople, farmers, church pastors, veterans' advocates, teachers, real estate agents and local officials. And a good many of them are much better versed on the impacts of decisions in Washington than the people in Washington.

At any rate, thanks to all my friends for reading and commenting. And for those of you who've accessed this blog from CapitalPress.com, drop me a line on Facebook.

America's choice: In the campaigns' own words

A few weeks ago, I sent questionnaires to both of the major presidential campaigns and their responses were featured in this week's Capital Press Page One centerpiece. For the paper's purposes, the answers needed to be edited for clarity and space. We don't have space limitations online, so here's how the campaigns responded to us in their own words.

(The one exception is with the question on ethanol, in which I described the Romney campaign's answer to an American Farm Bureau Federation questionnaire.)

Capital Press: What farm programs and policies do you support?
Obama campaign:
President Obama is laying the foundation for a rural economy built to last – one that invests in reclaiming rural middle class security and restoring the basic values of fairness and opportunity that make our country great. He is strengthening the security of the rural middle class by increasing low interest loans for farmers affected by the historic drought, working with insurance companies to extend payment deadlines and opening new lands for livestock farmers to graze their herds.
The president is also urging Congress to pass a 2012 Farm Bill and continues to put forward proposals that would:
·Strengthen the farm safety net, including crop disaster relief and a strong crop insurance program.
·Invest in rural development programs that boost economic growth and create jobs in rural America; increase access to credit for small businesses; invest in rural broadband, water and sewer infrastructure; and make it easier for rural communities to access to health care.
·Supporting farmers and ranchers who invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency improvement projects.
·Eliminate unnecessary handouts to large wealthy farmers to ensure everyone plays by the same rules.
·Plan for a strong agricultural future, by increasing funding for agricultural research and development.
Romney campaign: Governor Romney applauds the success of the agriculture sector and unlike President Obama, will be an advocate for farmers and ranchers. He understands that it is of the utmost importance that America’s food supply is the most secure, affordable, and abundant and will support farm policies the ensure these outcomes. For example, Governor Romney will establish firm limits on the costs associated with federal regulations and restore common sense to the rule making process. He will freeze and review new, pending, or proposed agriculture regulations and eliminate or suspend those that are uneconomically justifiable, duplicative and ineffective.

CP: Do you support direct commodity subsidy payments? If not, what would you put in their place?
Romney:
Agricultural policy in this country is evolving, moving away from decades of government intervention and subsidies toward a more market-based system. Governor Romney recognizes that the United States cannot remove government assistance for American farmers in a global marketplace where other nations continue to heavily subsidize their own producers. He will pursue pro-trade policies that encourage all governments to promote free and fair competition, while opening new markets for American farmers around the world.
Obama: Last year, the president proposed a dramatic, yet common-sense reform to terminate direct farm subsidies. In this economy, and in these times of deficit, we need to make sure that our tax dollars are being spent in the most effective way possible. Direct payments are problematic because they are paid out regardless of whether the farmer is currently producing certain crops—or producing any crop, for that matter. As a result, taxpayers are footing the bill for these payments to farmers who are experiencing record yields and prices. In fact, more than half of these payments go to farmers with more than $100,000 in annual income, and both Republicans and Democrats have agreed that these need to go.
Instead of giving big business payments that they don’t need, we support a stronger safety net for family farmers, one that supports the economic growth of rural America. President Obama has called for extending disaster assistance programs – which are all the more important in a drought like we’ve seen this year - and has expanded crop insurance to include more types of crops, expanding the safety net for American farmers.

CP: Do you support subsidies for ethanol production?
Obama:
Our rural communities, farmers, and ranchers can increase our energy independence and boost the transition to a clean energy economy. U.S. biofuel production is at its highest level in history. Last year, rural America produced enough renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel to meet roughly 8 percent of our needs, helping us increase our energy independence to its highest level in 20 years. We are increasing the level of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline, and the new Renewable Fuel Standard helped boost biodiesel production to nearly 1 billion gallons in 2011, supporting 39,000 jobs.
Romney: "I have a vision for an America that is an energy superpower, rapidly increasing our own production and partnering with our allies, Canada and Mexico, to achieve energy independence on this continent by 2020," Romney told the American Farm Bureau Federation. "The increased production of biofuels plays an important part in my plan to achieve energy independence. In order to support increased market penetration and competition among energy sources, I am in favor of maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard."

CP: What policies do you support to ensure an adequate farm labor supply?
Romney:
Too often, harvest or tourist season passes before temporary worker visas are approved.  In 2006 and 2007, nearly half (43 percent) of all applications for temporary agricultural workers were not processed on time. As president, Governor Romney will make the system for bringing in temporary agricultural workers and other seasonal workers functional for both employers and immigrants. We should get rid of unnecessary requirements that delay issuance of a visa, and we should speed the processing of applications.
Obama: A world-class education is the single most important factor in determining not just whether our children can be adequately prepared to be their best at their jobs but whether America can out-compete countries around the world. By investing $2 billion in competitive grants to community colleges that train students and workers in high-skill industries and reinvesting in our rural communities by investing in 50,000 rural small businesses through over 12,000 grants and loans and providing 32,225 farm loans to help family sized farmers and ranchers promote, build, and sustain their farms, just last year (2011), President Obama is investing in future generations of farmers and their employees.
The president says: “To contribute to the vitality of our agricultural economy, we must also design a system that provides legal channels for U.S. employers to hire needed foreign workers. This system must protect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers and only be used when U.S. workers are not available. I have called on Congress to pass and implement the AgJOBS Act, which allows farmers to hire the workers they rely on, and provides a path to citizenship for those workers. But we cannot wait for Congress to act, which is why my administration is already taking action to improve the existing system for temporary agricultural workers. We are also standing up a new Office on Farmworker Opportunities at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the first office for farmer workers in the Agency’s history. These measures are helping to identify the challenges faced by farmworkers and address the need for a reliable labor force.”

CP: What is your policy on immigration?
Obama:
“Our immigration system has been broken for too long. I believe that comprehensive reform that strengthens our economy and reflects our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. I support legislation—that until recently had bipartisan support—that would invest in border security, hold employers accountable, demand responsibility from undocumented immigrants while creating a path to legal status, and reform the legal immigration system to attract the best and brightest and keep families together.. And until Congress acts, my administration is taking important steps to secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws in a way that is more fair, efficient, and just. Today, by many measures, the Southwest border is more secure than at any time in the past 20 years. Illegal border crossings are at a 40-year low and the Border Patrol is better staffed than at any time in its 88-year history. For the first time, immigration officials are prioritizing the deportation of criminals, rather than young people who were brought here illegally through no fault of their own and are pursuing an education.”
Romney: Immigration represents another broken promise by President Obama. Candidate Obama promised an immigration reform plan in his first year in office. We are still waiting for a plan. Governor Romney will implement a national immigration strategy to fix our broken immigration system. He will:
--Secure our borders so that drug cartels, human traffickers, and potential terrorists can no longer cross back and forth.
--Strengthen our legal immigration system so that it betters our economy, brings immediate families together, and honors our tradition as a nation of immigrants.
--End illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner that respects the rule of law and the millions who have patiently applied to come here legally.

CP: Do you support reform in the H-2A visa program?
Romney:
Yes. As president, Governor Romney will eliminate unnecessary requirements that delay visa issuance and will accelerate the application approval process. This will provide businesses with the short-term, seasonal labor they require.
Obama: H-2A visas are important to ensure that our farmers are able to continue to bring a plentiful food supply to our nation. As mentioned before, the president believes that while necessary, it is important to make changes to the H-2A program that balances the needs of businesses and workers.

CP: What is your position on federal estate and income taxes?
Obama:
“The tax code has become increasingly complicated and unfair. While many tax incentives serve important purposes, taken together the tax expenditures in the law are inefficient, unfair, duplicative, or even unnecessary. That’s why I’m calling for comprehensive tax reform. First, we must extend the middle class tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans making less than $250,000 for another year. In fact, my proposal extends tax cuts for 97 percent of all small business owners in America. But at the same time, we need to ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share. I remain opposed to the extension of tax cuts for those with household income is above $250,000 and support the return of the estate tax exemption and rates to 2009 levels. These policies were unfair and unaffordable when they were passed, and they remain so today. Governor Romney would take the opposite approach – his tax plan would require an average tax increase of $2,000 on middle class families with kids, to pay for a new round of tax cuts for multi-millionaires, who would get an average break of $250,000.”
The president's proposal would return the top tax rate on estates to 45 percent and reinstate the $7 million per‐couple estate tax exemption, which exempts all but the wealthiest 3 in 1,000 decedents from the tax, but still helps us reduce the deficit. Independent experts estimate that under this plan, only 60 small farm and business estates in the entire country would owe any estate tax in 2013. “I’d also return capital gains taxes to the rates they were when Bill Clinton was president. But I’m calling for the permanent elimination of capital gains taxes on key small business investments.”
Romney: Governor Romney supports fundamental tax reform that lowers tax rates, broadens the base, achieves revenue neutrality, and maintains the progressivity of the tax code. This will help jumpstart an economic recovery that will help create 12 million jobs in his first term in office. A major element of his tax reform plan is cutting marginal tax rates by 20 percent across-the-board, ensuring that fundamental tax reform benefits every single tax-paying American. This bold tax reform will allow middle class families to keep more of what they earn and will help them better afford the rising costs of daily necessities like food, gas, and energy.
Regarding the estate tax, Governor Romney wants to help all working families, including farmers and ranchers, keep more of what they earn. As president, Governor Romney will eliminate the estate tax, helping keep family farms and ranches intact when businesses pass on from one generation to the next.

CP: What is your position on the balance between environmental regulation and farming and ranching interests?
Romney:
As president, Governor Romney will look closely at the environmental regulations already in place to make sure that their benefits in fact outweigh their costs. Our laws should promote a rational approach to regulation that takes cost into account, and rules should be carefully crafted to support rather than impede agricultural activities. Governor Romney also thinks that we must improve our environmental review process by setting clear deadlines and statutes of limitations, requiring better coordination between federal agencies, and allowing state reviews to satisfy federal requirements.
Obama: “Americans are interested in ensuring the long-term growth of our agricultural industry while protecting our environment for future generations. Farmers are some of the best stewards of our environment, which is why my administration is working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers on more than 30 million acres of land to help conserve our lands and protect our waters. I have seen how we can bolster growth of our nation’s agricultural economy while protecting our environment. I believe that we can work together to safeguard the resources that Americans rely on every day and those that support farming and economic growth.”

CP: Do you support reforms of the Endangered Species Act?
Obama:
The Endangered Species Act is an historic piece of legislation that preserves the legacy of numbers species and protects the long-term viability of many of our public lands. As we protect the many animals that inhabit the United States we must reform the Endangered Species Act to best fit the needs of our farming community and the long-term needs of our public lands and communities.
Romney: Governor Romney is a supporter of biodiversity and believes that science and data are vital to protecting any species. Unfortunately, scarce resources are being wasted on litigation driven by a handful of activist groups with little or no real conservation benefits. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is failing to achieve its primary purpose of species recovery and instead has become a tool for litigation that drains resources away from real recovery efforts and blocks job-creating economic activities. The ESA should be modernized and updated to once again focus the law on true species recovery.

CP: Describe how you would increase trade opportunities for American farmers and ranchers.
Obama:
President Obama has expanded markets for American goods that help support over a million agriculture jobs here at home. In 2011, American farm income reached the highest point since 1974, with a record number of agricultural exports and a record agriculture trade surplus that means more of our products are being sold in markets around the world. The president signed three historic trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea which will create tens of thousands of jobs by further increasing exports. He is also expanding regional food markets and increased the number of farmers markets by 53 percent since 2008.
Romney: Governor Romney realizes that trade is a key factor in the strong prices that are driving agriculture’s success and that agricultural trade creates good jobs in our economy. He would promote policies to open new markets for our agricultural products. He recognizes multilateral trade agreements as the best opportunity for agriculture to address crucial trade issues. By opening new markets and expediting the process, Governor Romney will increase export opportunities and overall economic opportunities.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Farm Bureau posts positions on propositions

Opposition to the controversial November ballot proposition that would require labels on genetically modified foods highlights the California Farm Bureau Federation's positions on state initiatives, which the organization posted today on its website.

From the CFBF:
Describing it as a poorly written measure with serious implications for family farmers and ranchers, the California Farm Bureau Federation reaffirmed its opposition to a food labeling initiative on the November ballot as it announced positions on the other measures facing voters this fall.

Proposition 37 would ban foods containing genetically engineered materials unless they carried a special, California-only label. It would also prohibit most processed foods from being labeled as "natural"; the measure's provisions would be enforced for the most part by private attorneys suing alleged violators.

"Proposition 37 wouldn't do anything to make food safer or more affordable. It would just make California farmers and food businesses less competitive," California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger said. "Proposition 37 could force even farmers who don't grow biotech crops to keep extensive records just in case they were sued by a bounty-hunting attorney."

Wenger said the labeling as outlined in Proposition 37 implies a warning and would give people the impression something is wrong with foods made with biotech ingredients.

"Many years of studies have shown that foods made with genetic engineering are safe," he said. "It's irresponsible and confusing to people to require what is essentially a warning label on products that are safe."

Among its other ballot positions, Farm Bureau opposes Proposition 36, which would revise the "three strikes" sentencing law to reduce sentences for repeat offenders convicted of certain non-violent felonies.

"At a time when California farmers and ranchers are plagued by thefts of crops, fuel and anything made of metal, this measure sends the wrong signal to the criminals who prey on our homes and businesses," Wenger said.

The California Farm Bureau Board of Directors considered all 11 measures on the Nov. 6 ballot. The organization's complete list of ballot positions:

Proposition 30 – Temporary Taxes (No Position)

Proposition 31 – State Budget and Local Government NO

Proposition 32 – Restrictions on Political Contributions YES

Proposition 33 – Auto Insurance Pricing (No Position)

Proposition 34 – Death Penalty Repeal (No Position)

Proposition 35 – Human Trafficking YES

Proposition 36 – Three-Strikes Law Revision NO

Proposition 37 – Genetically Engineered Foods NO

Proposition 38 – Tax to Fund Education NO

Proposition 39 – Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses NO

Proposition 40 – Redistricting Referendum (No Position)

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 74,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.
For my story with more comments from CFBF on Prop. 37, visit CapitalPress.com tomorrow morning. In the meantime, check out Steve Brown's excellent coverage of the initiative here and here.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Brown vetoes farmworker heat bills

Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a pair of bills that farm groups say would have placed an unreasonable burden on growers to protect their workers from exposure to heat.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
In his veto messages for two bills that would have imposed inflexible requirements on California farmers and ranchers, Gov. Brown noted steadily increasing compliance with existing heat-safety standards for agriculture and other outdoor industries. California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said today the state’s farmers and ranchers will continue their efforts to assure employee safety on hot days.

The governor vetoed Assembly Bill 2346 and AB 2676, each of which would have placed additional burdens on farmers who already work under comprehensive heat-safety regulations.

Wenger said the state’s farmers and ranchers have led California and the nation in addressing and preventing heat illness.

“We thank Governor Brown for recognizing the heat illness prevention efforts of farmers, ranchers, agricultural organizations and Cal/OSHA,” Wenger said. “Farm Bureau and other farm organizations have worked cooperatively with Cal/OSHA to develop and strengthen existing heat-illness regulations. We will continue to do so.”

During the past decade, he said, tens of thousands of farmers, farm labor contractors and employees have been trained to understand heat illness and how to keep employees safe while working outside.

“Farmers have made a long-term commitment to educate, train and seek effective policies that assure safety on hot days, and we remain committed to continuous improvement that assures flexibility and success,” Wenger said.

Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations had encouraged the governor to veto both bills, saying they would have placed nearly impossible new rules on farmers.

“The best way to assure heat safety is through comprehensive, coordinated efforts involving employers, employees and regulators,” Wenger said. “Farmers and ranchers accept the governor’s invitation to continue working for improved workplace safety.”