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Johansson has concerns about stability
Agriculture was nervous about the election of Gov. Jerry Brown two years ago, and now the Democratic Party has a supermajority in the Assembly and the Senate.
"To err is human, but to do it over and over again makes you a California voter," quipped Jamie Johansson, second vice president of the state Farm Bureau Federation, at a farm-city breakfast Tuesday morning in Colusa County.
"What does it mean? No one really knows, and neither does Sacramento," said Johansson, who is an olive oil producer out of Oroville.
Johansson told a story about a meeting Farm Bureau officials had with Brown shortly after his election, at which the governor noted that he knew 98 percent of those in attendance did not vote for him, but then also noted he did not need them to get elected.
Johansson remembers feeling a bit of a chill with the power statement.
As it turns out, Johansson said, Brown has been a good governor to work with the past two years.
He also noted Brown's veto of the heat illness legislation and other legislative victories, plus the voters' Nov. 6 rejection of Proposition 37, the food labeling initiative.
He is hoping it all adds up to a political environment in which agriculture not only has a seat at the table, but a voice that will be heard.
But Johansson clearly has doubts.
"In business and on the farm, the most important thing is stability," said Johansson, reiterating his concern about what kind of stability will come out of the election.
He said when the parties are more evenly numbered, typically big issues generate a debate that can take several years to hammer out.
That gave the Farm Bureau and other organizations time to respond.
Now, potentially, the Republicans can be shoved to the side and legislation can be swept through with little or no debate if all the Democrats are on board.
Moreover, there are enough votes to override a veto as well.
At the heart of the concern is that farmers and ranchers could ultimately be facing more and stricter regulations that will drive up costs, and drive family farmers out.
He said statistics show that most family farming operations do not make it to the third generation, either because of outside forces, or because that next generation does not want to farm.
"They have watched their parents and their grandparents struggle, and they don't want to do that," Johansson said.
The lesson, Johansson said, is that local farm bureaus and individual farmers and ranchers need to be involved in the political process.
Send the message that if the state wants to turn the economy around, it should start on the farm.
The Farm Bureau official noted that despite the overall poor economy, and noting the exception of dairies, the farming industry is doing well.
But he also noted there are greater pressures on the processors that they would not necessarily have in neighboring states or perhaps in Mexico.
"Let us work," Johansson said.
But political involvement means more than having a voice heard in Sacramento. He said farm bureau members need to be on school boards, water district boards and other local governing bodies to strengthen that position.
Furthermore, he said, it cannot be taken for granted that all rural counties are going to fall in line, it must be an holistic effort.
The final piece he said was to find business- and farm-friendly Democrats who are willing to work with agriculture to run in those districts where Republicans have little chance of winning.