Commentary: Make your voice heard
Farmers, ranchers and other rural residents would prefer not to have to keep everything under lock and key. However, as growth occurs and suburbs closer to farmland, farms and ranches become more vulnerable to crime. Farming is unique because the majority of products and equipment are located outside, and are therefore more difficult to protect.
The Central Valley Rural Crime Prevention Program, which has been in existence since 1996, has significantly improved the protection of California's rural areas from crime. Its mission is to "prevent agricultural crime and protect California agriculture through the integration of law enforcement, agricultural commissioners and prosecution."
The program is important as one of the nation's only programs directly aimed at preventing crime in rural areas. It fosters collaboration between county law enforcement and local farmers across a nine-county region.
A partnership with the Agricultural Crime Technology Infor-mation and Operations Network has helped law enforcement to trace and control crimes on rural and agricultural properties.
Many Farm Bureau members have experienced the benefits of the Rural Crime Prevention Program on their farms and ranches. Farm Bureau members in the region greatly appreciate the working relationships with the agricultural crime units of their county sheriff's departments. Their individual stories are the best evidence of the success and importance of the Central Valley Rural Crime Prevention Program.
However, this program is currently at risk. It is due to "sunset" in July. Senate Bill 453 by Sen. Charles Poochigian (R-Fresno) would extend this program to combat rural crime. The bill is also at risk, but you can help.
S.B. 453 needs four votes to pass the Senate Public Safety Committee, where it will be reheard within the next couple of weeks. The bill stalled in the committee last month, due to opposition by the California Public Defenders Association.
The California Farm Bureau Federation supports the mission and efforts of the Central Valley Rural Crime Prevention Program. We need to remind legislators that California produces agricultural commodities valued at $28 billion annually, with 60 percent of that value coming from the Central Valley. Clearly, these are assets and a region worth protecting. S.B. 453 and the continuance of the crime-prevention program will do just that.
Please act now to contact legislators and encourage them to support this bill. Specifically, members of the Senate Public Safety Committee need to be informed of the crime-prevention program's importance. The committee's members are Senators Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose, chair; Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, vice-chair; Gilbert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles; Bob Margett, R-Diamond Bar; Carole Migden, D-San Francisco; Don Perata, D-Oakland; and Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles.
For information on how to contact those members, as well as your local legislators, visit the Farm Bureau Web site at www.cfbf.com, click on "Political Action," and go to "Contact Your Legislators."
(Elisa Noble is California Farm Bureau Federation rural crime prevention coordinator. She may be contacted at email@example.com.)
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.