By RAYMOND GIBSON
Special To The Leader
Despite a pre-dawn shower Thursday, a stiff breeze pushed the overcast out of the valley just in time for the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce’s 44th Annual Ag Scholarship Luncheon at the Gene Bianchi Community Center. The featured keynote speaker was Stanislaus County District 1 Supervisor Kristin Olsen.
Mary Guardiola, Chief Executive Officer for the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce said the event, her 16th Ag Luncheon, is a premier event of the chamber’s annual calendar.
“We’ll take a few weeks off now and start planning next month for next year’s luncheon,” she said.
Guardiola estimated that about 75 percent of the more than 200 in attendance Thursday were chamber members. The funds raised will be used to provide two local students with much-needed funding to continue their education.
“This event is really put together by our ag committee,” Guardiola said.
Early planning, according to the chamber CEO, is important in “scheduling the best speaker we can,” she said.
Following a catered lunch, those in attendance heard from the keynote speaker regarding local and state government.
Olsen, who previously served in the state assembly, and has recently been chosen as vice president of the California Republican Party, had a lot to share.
“It was my sister who said she wanted to marry a farmer,” Olsen recalled, and then went on to list some issues that she called “threats to agriculture.” She added that many of the people around the state are under the misconception that things are moving along nicely for California’s farmers, especially in light of a very wet winter.
“The PPIC (Public Policy Institute of California) Water Policy Board has been busy informing the people of the state, and most of the people in Northern California really believe, that we’re on the right track in the way we are handling water,” she said. “But when they want to take our water to feed more fish, I feel somewhat uncomfortable with that.”
Olsen also spoke on the state legislature concerning area farmers.
“One of the ways California’s liberal democrats are protesting the administration of President Trump is to say okay if you’re going to relax legislation that is keeping California farmers from making a decent living, then we’re just going to put all of that legislation under the state and make those restrictions state mandated.”
Olsen wrapped up warnings to area farmers with a caution about the ever-rising cost of taxes on fuel. So how do growers of the Central Valley address these issues? Olsen had some suggestions.
“Hold your (member) association accountable. Ask them what legislation they are showing support for. Find out who it is they are supporting in state government. Find out how they are spending your money.”
Olsen also suggested association members seek a board seat on their local grower’s boards of directors to ensure the needs of the growers are foremost in regard to legislation.
The County Supervisor also spoke of the “Farm-to-Fork” program and the importance of letting the general population, who may not spend their time working in fields, know about the importance of California agriculture.
“Finally,” Olsen concluded, “we have to find ways to demonstrate community pride. We have so much to be thankful for. I believe that if we really stand behind our communities, and let people know about the importance of what you do here, they’ll understand. Let’s all work together.”