By John Moore, President, Kern County Farm Bureau
I was recently on a phone call with the facilitator of a water collaboration effort whose job is to be the ultimate cat-herder for representatives of agricultural, environmental, social justice, water districts, and municipalities, and he mentioned the statement of an anonymous ag representative. The facilitator’s role is to get to know each committee member and one of our peers reminded the facilitator about the nature of the Valley. He or she said, “You need to understand, we grow things here.” I found the statement to be profound and an important sentiment in our current space and time. Things have grown increasingly complex over the past few years. I am not blind to reasons for pessimism; precarious groundwater supplies, decreased surface water allocations, artificially inflated costs due to regulation, compressed commodity prices, seemingly tightening margins, and dysfunction political discourse that has trickled in the cultural sphere have justified negativity. I am not blind to this and most likely neither are you, the reader. Though the industry may seem challenged at this point in time, there is reason to be optimistic and advocate what is not only a rewarding occupation, but the backbone of a healthy society and culture.
The negative components are real, and they are countered actively. As we navigate through our groundwater sustainability efforts, certain bodies, namely the State Water Resources Control Board, have tried to shift the goals posts as seen in their outrageous recommendation to review water rights in the name of climate change. Within days our Kern County Farm Bureau had participated with our directors to draft a response letter and video on behalf of our industry. Decreased surface water allocations saw the same response from our advocacy group: an immediate retort in the form of a letter to Governor Newsom that could be utilized by our membership to go to the source. And I understand I sound like a broken record, but the California population spoke when AB 5 was refuted on the ballot and as long as the community is united, poor legislation will be repudiated. Our commodity prices will likely rise for economic reasons you have all heard and likely understand (i.e. the weakening U.S. dollar, increased trade, etc.). And although I think that political discourse may get a bit worse before it gets better, the people are growing tired of demonization and misinterpretation of their outlook on life. The time to push back is now to the benefit of our businesses and communities.
The positive impact that farming and ranching has had on this region’s culture cannot and should not be ignored. Various races, cultures, and creeds have taken it upon themselves to put value in centering their lives around an agricultural industry that can be as rewarding as it is punishing. Consider all of the professional acquaintances and friends that have impacted not only your own life, but the tradition of the Valley. I was speaking with my Broker-boss-partner in real estate (still don’t know how to refer to him), and we were discussing the opportunities this industry has afforded the Central Valley population, and I am not referring to economic status. We in this Valley value hard work, personal responsibility, honesty, and do not tolerate abhorrent behavior prevalent in some areas of the country that are difficult to explain to a child. Don’t get me wrong, we may have a couple actual deplorables in our industry, but who doesn’t have a couple oafs in a big family? My point is this: what we do in this industry matters, and it’s done more than just economically benefit landowners or producers. The reason for optimism is for the opportunity the industry has provided for those who work the hardest, gotten back up after being knocked down by their own fault or by the weather, and stayed honest and diligent. When applied correctly those tenants will always lead to success.
Never forget we grow things here. We grow food and fiber. We grow our businesses and employment bases. We grow communities and families. We grow cities and towns. Together we will continue to grow things. There is always room for optimism in our industry. Those who came before us deserve it, and those who come after us will depend on it.