RED BLUFF, Calif. — Easing the regulatory burden on farmers and reminding consumers and lawmakers of the economic importance of agriculture are high on Jamie Johansson’s “to do” list.
Johansson, 49, was chosen by members to be the California Farm Bureau Federation’s 16th president in December. The Oroville olive grower succeeds Modesto tree nut farmer Paul Wenger, who served the maximum eight years in office.
Johansson told a gathering Jan. 18 that it’s important for farmers to make the public aware of the difficulties they face because of regulation. He noted that it takes 19 different fees and permits from the county to the national level to make a bottle of olive oil, and as many as 28 different fees and permits to produce a bottle of wine.
“People get that,” Johansson said during the Tehama County Farm Bureau’s 100th annual meeting. “Nowadays it takes more training to be a barber than to be a paramedic in California. One in every three workers are required to pay a fee or get a permit to do their jobs in the U.S.”
The regulations are a key reason only 1 in 10 jobs are in rural America, down from 1 in 3 a couple of decades ago, Johansson told the gathering.
Some relief is occurring at the federal level, he said, noting that President Donald Trump’s administration has delayed implementing on-farm inspections while it reviews the Food Safety Modernization Act and moved to rescind the controversial Waters of the U.S. regulation.
A first-generation grower, Johansson cultivated a dream of farming while growing up in Humboldt County and working on his friends’ cattle ranches and dairy operations, he said.
He bought 20 acres of olive trees in 1993 and now has 80 acres of olives for oil, specialty citrus fruit and an egg operation, mostly sold directly to consumers. He also co-founded the Sierra Oro Farm Trail Association and is a former Oroville city councilman.
Johansson steps into the president’s role after serving as a statewide CFBF officer for eight years, becoming second vice president in 2009 and first vice president in 2015. He will serve alongside new first vice president Shannon Douglass of neighboring Glenn County.
The 34-year-old Douglass is an owner of Douglass Ranch, which raises beef cattle, sunflowers, corn and forage crops. She also founded CalAgJobs, which matches job seekers with agricultural employers.
Johansson expressed some surprise that the two mid-Sacramento Valley representatives won the top spots since the Farm Bureau often picks officers from different regions. But both he and Douglass downplayed their proximity.
“In Farm Bureau, whether you’re from Imperial County or Siskiyou County, we need each other,” Johansson said in an interview. “When farmers in the south aren’t getting the water they need, that’s a threat to the north as well.”
Douglass, a Glenn County Farm Bureau director and former chair of the Young Farmers and Ranchers State Committee, agreed.
“We’re really excited to continue working for Farm Bureau and working for our members,” she said. “We do very important work at the state and national level. I’m very excited to be part of that and being even more involved moving forward.”
Johansson and Douglass were chosen along with new second vice president Shaun Crook of Sonora, a timber operator who has been the Tuolumne County Farm Bureau president since 2015.
Seven of the CFBF board’s 21 regional directors were also newly elected. They are Al Stehly of Valley Center, John Moore of Bakersfield, Donny Rollin of Riverdale, Ron Peterson of Turlock, David Barhydt of Grass Valley and Tom Stewart of Tulelake. Jenny Holtermann of Wasco will chair the YF&R State Committee.
Johansson said it’s a crucial time for growers to become involved in the organization.
“The challenges are real in rural California,” he said. “The opportunities are great to be a farmer if we can get Sacramento to listen. We’re making progress in (Washington) D.C.”