Farm Bureau leader touts state's role in ag
Wenger: 'We harvest something every day of the year in California'
By TIM HEARDEN
RED BLUFF, Calif. -- Agriculture is a key part of California's economy and needs to be preserved, the state Farm Bureau president told an audience here.
California is the nation's No. 1 agricultural state, and high farm productivity is the reason Americans still can devote less than 7 percent of their income to food, said Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Yet people drive by farms and "don't know what we're doing," which can lead to more regulations and water restrictions that threaten the industry, Wenger said on Nov. 5.
"I hope you don't take for granted what 'local' really means," he said. "We harvest something every day of the year in California. You talk about local in Nebraska in January and you don't have very many options."
Wenger made his comments during an annual Farm-City dinner at the community center here, as area farmers gathered with urban businesspeople to recognize the region's agriculture. The Tehama County Farm Bureau-sponsored awards dinner followed an Oct. 25 bus tour of local agricultural businesses. The tour and dinner are held in conjunction with National Farm-City Week, which will be recognized Nov. 16-22 around the country.
The week aims to foster interactions between farmers and urban folks. Guided by a national board that was established in 1955, the movement involves myriad banquets, civic club meetings, farm tours and job exchanges, all locally organized.
Wenger, a Modesto, Calif., almond farmer, has long stressed the importance of political and educational outreach. He sent a letter in January to the group's 30,000 members asking for more donations, noting the CFBF wants to create a political action committee that raises $30 million a year to keep up with labor unions and other powerful interests.
In an interview Nov. 5, Wenger said the PAC is still in the planning stages.
"It's going," he said. "It's slow but sure. We are getting farmers to be a little more politically engaged."
Farmers at the dinner recognized the need for such efforts. Bob Williams, an oat and alfalfa hay producer and Tehama County supervisor, said ag is the only industry in the county that seems to be thriving and expanding.
"It's very important getting the word out and educating the public about the importance of agriculture," he said.
National Farm-City Council: www.farmcity.org
California Farm Bureau Federation: www.cfbf.com
Tehama County Farm Bureau: www.tehamacountyfarmbureau.org