Our View: Stand up for agriculture
Here in Yuba and Sutter counties, we might know how important agriculture is, but increasingly, it's not what we know that matters — it's what we make our urban counterparts understand.
And that becomes harder and harder as our national culture grows away from the farm and more and more of us, including elected representatives, grow up inside city limits.
Like most things, it's all about perspective, and noting a few recent news clips, it looks like a hard but necessary row to hoe for the agriculture industry.
Farmers and farmworkers represent just 1 percent of the American labor force. That's what led US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to describe rural America as "becoming less and less relevant."
You might not like what he said, but he's got a point. We can't even get a long-term farm bill passed.
Have you thought about how important agriculture is to our own community? If you haven't, you surely haven't thought about how to represent our concerns and issues to urbanites who elect representatives that vote on measures affecting agriculture and related businesses.
Yuba County posted a gross agricultural production record of $212.9 million last year. Across the river, Sutter County came in at $547.2 million. Agriculture is what powers our economies. All sorts of businesses depend on the dollars that agriculture brings and turns over here.
Yet, the rural-urban and farm-to-fork disconnects continue to grow.
Wheatland High School agriculture teacher Jeff Magill assessed the situation appropriately in an Appeal-Democrat news story titled "Fewer farmers fighting to survive," published late last month.
He was talking about how some legislators and leaders harbor misconceptions about farming, ranching and ag-related industry: "I don't think they're anti-agriculture. They just don't understand it."
It's important that they do. It's true there are far fewer farmers than there were even 50 years ago, but that doesn't diminish the industry's role in a world with a growing population that relies on a safe and steady food supply. People need to eat.
Congressman John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, talked about how even with recent changes in California, the Central Valley will continue to be driven by agriculture. "It's been going on for a century and half," he said. "It's not going to change."
What can change — for better or for worse — are the attitudes that lawmakers bring with them as they consider legislation and policies that can impact agriculture.
It's up to Yuba-Sutter residents to encourage lawmakers like Garamendi in Washington, and state legislators in Sacramento, to not only defend agriculture, but to promote it. And it trickles down to local government, too, as planning commissions, county supervisors and city councils make major land use, development and policy decisions.
It's a busy world. How will those representatives, local, state and federal, keep the best interests of agriculture in mind? Networking.
Vilsack might have said it best during his "less and less relevant" speech:
"We need a proactive message, not a reactive message."
The farming industry needs to make sure it's being heard and understood. Farming communities need to help; and their elected representatives need to give a major assist.
Our View editorials represent the opinion of the Appeal-Democrat and its editorial board and are edited by the publisher and/or editor. Members of the editorial board include: Publisher Paula Patton, Editor Steve Miller, News Editor Richard Olmsted and City Editor Eric Vodden.