The Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council) recently concluded a successful joint meeting with CoBank. More than 150 farmers and cooperative members met during the Ag Council’s 91st Annual Meeting in Sonoma to discuss issues impacting the future of agriculture in California and the United States.
In her opening remarks at the Delegate Body Meeting, Ag Council President Emily Rooney presented strategic priorities to move the organization forward during these trying economic times. “The theme for this year’s meeting is ‘Shaping our Future’ and that seemed fitting for both the organization, as well as our many cooperative members who are adapting their businesses to meet the current challenges head on,” she said. “At Ag Council, we’ve taken a strategic approach to focus on our core objectives, which include representing our members with a strong policy agenda and working hard to proactively influence legislative outcomes, while at the same time building upon the foundation that has been constructed by Ag Council members and leadership during the last 90 years.”
The meeting was capped off by a slate of speakers that embodied a proactive sentiment and offered attendees innovative ideas to create a better business environment for California’s farmer-owned cooperatives.
Rayne Pegg, administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) encouraged the growers in attendance to “look for opportunities and embrace the initiatives and sentiments that you are seeing among consumers. People want to know where their food comes from and California cooperatives are uniquely positioned to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Political satirist and former San Francisco Chronicle bureau chief, Greg Lucas brought his own spin to the current political climate in California and left the Ag Council members in attendance with an appreciation for how important the independent vote and millennial generation is in state and national politics.
Fred Silva, senior fiscal policy advisor for California Forward, a bipartisan effort to remake state government, discussed California’s current fiscal policy and how changes in consumer behavior have also impacted the state’s current budget woes. “During California’s earliest days from the 1850s to 1910, the state controlled locally collected funds. Through a series of reforms, the state’s fiscal policies shifted to the idea that locally levied taxes should be used locally and there was more accountability,” he said. “Unfortunately we are back to a situation where the state assumes broader control of local taxes, and we need to reapply the lessons that history has taught us.”
Finally, David Carroll, director of operations and finance for the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) gave attendees an opportunity to learn how his group is working with several California growers to market fresh fruits and vegetables with the state’s food banks. “This is an opportunity for growers to extend their markets, as the demand at local food banks has skyrocketed,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved, as growers have a chance to move product that might not fit their normal marketing channels, and California food banks are able to distribute fresh produce to the people who really need it.”
The Ag Council meeting concluded with a luncheon that honored previous president Don Gordon for his years of service to the association and recognized him with the Cooperative Leader Award.
In his closing remarks, Ag Council Chairman Mike Emigh reminded attendees of the role that Ag Council has had for the last 90 years championing the interests of its cooperative members. “As the dynamics of agriculture and our businesses change in the next 90 years, we will have to continue to be a responsive organization that keeps its core principles in mind while seeking out the opportunities that will allow our members to remain successful in growing and producing food for consumers.”
The joint meeting concluded with CoBank’s Pacific West Customer Meeting and featured speakers Marci Rossell, Ph.D., and former chief economist for CNBC; Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity; and Carlos Gutierrez, former CEO and chairman of Kellogg Company and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The Agricultural Council of California has been providing a unified voice for agricultural cooperatives and other farmer-owned businesses since it was established in 1919. For more information, visit www.agcouncil.org.