Calling for “farmer-led solutions” to issues confronting agriculture, California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson pledged the organization would respond to state government actions on the pandemic, climate change and other policies.
Speaking to members via webcast from the Farm Bureau building in Sacramento during the 102nd California Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, Johansson said farmers and ranchers acted quickly and responsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic, to adjust working conditions and provide personal protective equipment to employees, and to assure a worried public about the continued availability and safety of food and farm products.
“Make no mistake about it, when it comes to worker safety and when it came to our families’ wellbeing, farmers and agriculture led the way,” Johansson said.
“We'll continue to work as we move forward through this pandemic, looking into the future of what we need to do to take care of our employees,” he added, noting in particular the need to remove roadblocks to creation of more and better housing.
Describing agriculture as “the original green industry,” Johansson said state and federal climate policies must recognize the positive contributions farms and ranches make to the environment. He also urged the state to act quickly and decisively to address chronic water shortages and the increasing wildfire threat.
The annual scourge of wildfires “shouldn't become normal,” Johansson said. “We should be outraged.” Noting that the state has directed significant resources toward wildfire prevention and forest management, he said Farm Bureau will review how effectively those resources have been used and will advocate for timely action.
Johansson celebrated the defeat of a November ballot initiative to create a split-roll property tax, saying farmers and ranchers “changed the debate” on Proposition 15 by describing its likely impacts on food production and prices. With the state government facing budget deficits, he warned of potential new efforts to raise taxes and fees, saying the state can’t continue to balance the budget “on the backs of the California taxpayers.”
With a new administration about to take office in Washington, D.C., Johansson said Farm Bureau will advocate for balanced environmental, immigration and trade policies.
“We have challenges ahead of us, but we will continue to speak out and make a difference,” Johansson said.
The California Farm Bureau works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 34,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of nearly 5.6 million Farm Bureau members.