BY KEVIN SWARTZENDRUBER
Incoming SJFB President Jack Hamm thanks Bruce Fry and his family for his service and dedication to the Farm Bureau during his tenure as president. Photo by Goff Photography
The San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation held its 99th Annual Meeting on May 10 in Stockton discussing major issues that impact agriculture, inducting new SJFB officers and board members, and awarding thousands of dollars to area students through the SJFB Foundation's Scholarship program.
Jack Hamm was inducted as the new SJFB president as Bruce Fry became past president.
Fry outlined the “plethora of issues” that Farm Bureau dealt with this past year, including the General Plan Update, San Joaquin River Wildlife Refuge expansion, Winery Ordinance rewrite, labor issues, Farm Bill, bills in Sacramento that are hard on ag, solar facilities, Forward Landfill expansion, endorsements of candidates, CalTrans Highway closures, PG&E gas pipeline replacement, Siskiyou County lawsuit against the Department of Fish & Game on the 1602 permit, dealing with pests in the county, and of course, the proposed tunnels to divert water from the Delta to Southern California.
Fry said he was proud of the estate tax policy change he brought forward at the California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting, and the policy was added to the AFBF platform. “My passion was the estate tax because it affects my family,” he said. “It’s at $5 million, but in my opinion it needs to disappear. It’s double taxation.”
California State Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, who was elected to the Senate in 2012 representing the 5th District, was the first guest speaker on the agenda. As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, she outlined the challenges agriculture faced this year.
“We lost approximately 400 dairies over the last five year, and 1,500 remain but are struggling,” she said. “We know they’re so important to our state statewide and in particular to the central valley.” There’s been a lot of discussion about having a formula that is better for dairy producers so they have an ability to be more profitable and can stay in business.”
She addressed the “great debate” over water and expressed her opposition to proposed tunnels.
“We’ve argued about it for 30 years and nothing has changed, and there’s no additional supply. Now here we find ourselves this many years later and the conversation on the table is a take-it-or-leave-it menu with the tunnel and there’s no other option. I think it’s unfair to our community and I think it’s unfair to the rest of agriculture,” she said.
We were told the Delta Stewardship Council has the authority for funding with no approval needed by the Legislature. “There’s no legislative oversight, there’s no ability for an audit by the state auditors and there’s no vote by the people,” she said. “We need to look for ways to add to water supply.”
She added: “I believe the future will not be the tunnels, but incentivizing regional areas to have their own regional project where they become self-sufficient from the water in the Delta.
CFBF President Paul Wenger also spoke during the meeting. He is a third-generation farmer, farming almonds and walnuts on the family farm in Modesto.
He spoke about the upcoming 100-year celebrations for several Farm Bureaus and outlined several issues affecting agriculture, including water, nitrates, pest detection, EQIP funding, the Farm Bill and immigration reform.
He also encouraged SJFB members to be active: “If we don’t speak up for ourselves someone else will speak up for us and we might not like what they’re saying,” he said.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Jack Hamm thanked Bruce Fry for his years of service and outlined Farm Bureau events for the upcoming year.
“We’re going to continue our programs, such as Media Night in July,” he said. “They need to hear our story and then they will pass it on.”
He also encouraged involvement in the Farm Pac Dinner on Aug. 2 and the planning for our 100 year anniversary celebration.