Politics, water subject of annual Farm City Breakfast

Assemblyman James Gallagher speaks to Colusa County Farm Bureau membership and outgoing President Jim Peterson (right) at the annual Farm City Breakfast at the Colusa County Fairgrounds on Nov. 14, 2017, about potential state regulations that could make it tougher for California farmers to produce food.

To better understand farmers, one needs only to stop using the blanket term agriculture and start using the word food.

Assemblyman James Gallagher, who spoke at Colusa County Farm Bureau’s Farm City Breakfast and annual meeting on Nov. 14, made that suggestion as a way to combat what he describes as a growing assault on the farming industry.

“Everyone in this State eats food,” Gallagher said. “Everyone relies upon food. They want healthy food, they want food that is locally grown, they want organic in some cases, and they want to know where their food comes from and what is put on it. But if they want that, then they need California farmers to continue to produce that food.”

Gallagher said it has been a tough year in the predominantly liberal State Legislature, whose members have made it clear their primary mission is to impede President Donald Trump’s policies.

Gallagher said the State Legislature could make it even tougher to farm in California if they push a bill that would require California to have environmental laws that are equal to or tougher than regulations in the federal endangered species, clean air, and clean water acts, especially if any federal regulations are rolled back by the Trump administration.

Gallagher said what some legislators propose could extend clean water restrictions to include agricultural canals, ditches, and drainages on private property, something that would require Farm Bureau’s advocacy efforts to fight.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us on that front,” Gallagher said. “But we’ve always said that we as farmers are the ultimate environmentalists. We are stewards of our ranches and our farms. It’s within our interests to ensure that these lands remain sustainable for future generations. We don’t want it for just for us to farm, we want it for our children to farm. But some of the things (the Legislature) is trying to propose are ludicrous. They are going to make it so we can’t farm. If they create an environment where (farmers) can’t do so, what does that mean for your food supply – to your dinner plate. It means you’re going to have food that comes from places where you don’t know what they are using. You won’t know what methods they are using. And what if you are dependent on them, and that food doesn’t come through?”

Gallagher said too many people have become disconnected from agriculture, because they are not out there day after day like farmers.

“We are ground zero for food and we need to start talking about it in those terms,” he said.
The Colusa County Farm Bureau’s annual Farm City Breakfast was an opportunity for the organization’s members to gather for the election of their new board of directors for 2018.
Chris Torres will replace Jim Peterson as president. Directors are Rob Faris, Chad Parker, and Bill Rohde, for District 1 (North East); Randy Chrisman, Jonathan Gobel, Berne Marsh, and Darrin Williams for District 2 (North West); Jim Peterson, Annelie Lauwerijssen, Nathan Peterson, and Charlene Vaughn for District 3 (South).
Kim Dolbow Vann also spoke at the breakfast.

Vann has been the Colusa County Supervisor for District 1 for the past 11 years, during which she served chair of the Sites Reservoir Board of Directors. She will leave her post after recently being appointed as State Director for USDA Rural Development.
Vann said it was a pleasure serving as chair of the Sites JPA for the past two years.

“Most of us in this room have either been talking about Sites or dealing with it for over 20 years,” Vann said. “I know that for some it goes even further back. It’s been on the table, off the table, on and off. I will tell you, from my opinion, it’s either going to happen now or it’s not. We have the opportunity to have a real public-private partnership in Sites that we’ve never had before. There’s over 27 organizations participating in Sites, and 14 of those are from Northern California. This project – for the first time – is a actual Northern California project.”

Vann said when the Department of Water Resources first designed Sites Reservoir, it was a project proposed to provide water throughout the state.

“Now, of the 441,000 acre-feet of water that will be available for age and municipal use, about one-third of that water will stay in Northern California for agriculture use. That is something all of you should hang on to.”

Vann encouraged the Farm Bureau and other organizations to be active advocates when the state begins awarding Proposition 1 money for water projects, by writing letters and showing up to meetings.

“We need all the support we can get,” she said. “There are several projects that have applied for this money, and it’s competitive.”

The Sites board submitted an application to the California State Water Resources Control Board in August, requesting about $1.6 billion or 40 percent of the money available.

Vann expects the state to make its decision in June.

The public review and comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement has been extended to Jan. 15, 2018.

The Draft EIR/EIS and more information about the environmental review process can be found online www.sitesproject.org/environmental-review/.

Public comments can be emailed to EIR-EIS-Comments@SitesProject.org.

The Farm City Breakfast, which was held in observance of Farm City Week, was held in Festival Hall at the Colusa County Fairgrounds.

Farm City Week is used to celebrate and recognize the beneficial partnerships between rural and urban communities that make our food supply safe and plentiful, Peterson said.
The Farm City Breakfast also included the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award, which is given by Colusa County Farm Bureau to recognize someone’s outstanding service beyond their ordinary duties and normal responsibilities of their organization or agency.
Peterson and Ramos presented the award to Mary Anne Azevedo for promoting agriculture over the course of her decades-long career with the Colusa County Department of Agriculture.

Azevedo, who retires this year as the Assistant Agriculture Commissioner and Assistant Sealer of Weights and Measures, said she was excited to receive the award.
“I was quite surprised,” she said. “It’s very, very nice. I’m indebted to agriculture and fully immersed in it. I’ve loved the last 36 years with Colusa County.”

While most of the Agriculture Department’s role is regulatory, Azevedo said it has been rewarding to stay connected with the growers.

She and her husband Allan farm rice in Maxwell. ■