President's message: With the 2012 election past, the future is up to us
Over the last few weeks, everyone was looking forward to the end of this year's election. The campaigns, which began earlier than normal, were more negative and hostile than ever, with financial price tags that blew past all previous campaigns. The 2012 campaign season, from the presidential election to our state legislative races to the ballot initiatives, set new highs for "lows" without regard to any political party or candidate. The majority of those running the campaigns should be embarrassed by the lack of civility and the liberal use of innuendo to attain victory at any cost. And the amount of money spent weighed heavily on who won.
On the national scene, not much will change in the grand scheme of things. However, one change could have a major impact on an issue very critical to California agriculture.
The potential defeat of Dan Lungren in his race for re-election to the House of Representatives could deal a devastating blow to negotiations to create an immigration program for agricultural workers. Any solution will take bipartisan efforts and Rep. Lungren has been a stalwart at working with Sen. Dianne Feinstein and others to develop an effective agricultural worker program. With his potential absence in Congress, it will be extremely important that another Republican member, hopefully from California, take the initiative to seek a workable solution to the immigration issues that weigh so heavily on the agricultural workforce.
On the state level, we appear to have entered a new political reality that could become the norm. With Democrats appearing on the verge of a super majority in both chambers of the Legislature—and with the majority of representatives from urban districts—we in agriculture have a choice. We can either sit back and wait to see what happens, or we can work to make sure that urban legislators understand the importance of California agriculture and step up our commitment to elect legislators of either party who will consider the concerns of California farmers and ranchers.
As I said earlier, this was an expensive election, the most expensive ever—with the cost of future elections likely to rise. With the introduction of newly established term limits, the 2012 election as well as those to come in 2014, 2016 and 2018 will seat the Legislature that will for the most part be in office until 2024. If we are going to elect more candidates from urban areas who are concerned about agriculture, we need to raise the funds to help get them elected.
This past legislative session proved that legislators, given the facts and hearing from farmers and ranchers about legislation affecting them, can break party ranks to do the right thing. The overtime legislation was a prime example of legislators either voting against or abstaining from voting, even though there was a strong effort within the party to cast a party-line vote.
With an apparent two-thirds Democratic majority in the Legislature, many fear significant tax increases ahead. With the voters approving Proposition 30 and Gov. Brown's insistence that voters should have a say in the taxes levied in our state, we are hopeful that he will stand by his word and resist any effort to impose additional taxes until Proposition 30 revenues have had an effect. Our state is one of the most heavily burdened in the United States when it comes to taxation. If we are to grow our state's economy, it is imperative that we don't drive away job-creating businesses through excessive taxation.
Unlike many other businesses, we in agriculture can't just pick up our farm or ranch and move. If the future for California agriculture is going to be the one we want, we must quit complaining and start investing in the political future of our state. To do anything less is to allow those who don't have agriculture's best interest at heart to set the course of our regulatory and business environment for the next 12 years. The future for California agriculture is up to us!
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.