Governor pushes for more water storage
Dave Kranz and Christine Souza
Speaking by video uplink, Gov. Schwarzenegger shares a light moment with, right to left, CFBF President Doug Mosebar, 1st Vice President Paul Wenger, Secretary/Treasurer Joe Peters and 2nd Vice President Kenny Watkins.
Speaking from his office and surrounded by California-grown farm products, Gov. Schwarzenegger thanked family farmers and ranchers for their continuing support and outlined plans for the future.
"Thank you to all of you for your great help," he said during a Dec. 6 address to the California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Anaheim, delivered via an Internet video uplink from Sacramento. "The Farm Bureau has been there from the beginning."
As he prepares for his second term, the governor said projects to store and move water must be a priority in the state's next set of public-works bonds.
Schwarzenegger hailed voters' passage last month of $42 billion in bonds to rebuild roads, schools and other public facilities. He told the Farm Bureau gathering that he will insist that water facilities be a priority in future bond measures.
"Even though I want more infrastructure and to have more bonds approved, it would never happen unless above-the-ground water storage is part of this package and unless we also have conveyance," Schwarzenegger said.
The governor said he will work to continue a spirit of bipartisan cooperation in Sacramento after what he called one of the most successful legislative years in decades.
"In the Capitol there is a great mood with Democrats and Republicans," he said. "I think we will do a good job of following through and continuing this kind of bipartisan cooperation and getting things done."
Schwarzenegger pledged that he will continue to promote California farm products both at home and abroad.
"Even though we have the best products in the world, I think that if the world doesn't know about it then we don't have much, so I want to continue doing this promotion," the governor said.
As part of the general session on Dec. 4, CFBF President Doug Mosebar welcomed Victoria Bradshaw, secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.
"With well over 12 years of experience in preparing state policy in the workforce arena, Victoria Bradshaw brings a wealth of program knowledge in the cabinet position," Mosebar said. "On behalf of our 92,000 Farm Bureau members, we thank you for your commitment to serving the citizens of California. We look forward to another four years of partnership with your administration as we identify common goals and pursue a positive change for agriculture."
During her address to the Farm Bureau, Bradshaw shared challenges and successes that pertain to labor in California. One of the major challenges that lies ahead in the area of labor, she said, is developing a stable agricultural workforce in California.
"Supply has been a major challenge in the last couple of years. One of the reasons agriculture is having a problem is not any different than a lot of other industries," Bradshaw said. "For agriculture though there is a major competitor out there and that is the expanding construction industry. It is growing at a very rapid pace, some in the infrastructure, some in residential housing, but there is a huge demand for labor and they are offering higher wages and long-term employment."
Another challenge she highlighted is training people to work in agriculture. Unless California's farmers and ranchers do not build careers and vocations in agriculture, Bradshaw said, they will be left with an aging workforce and not a replenishing workforce.
"The reality is now if you let workers go on unemployment you make them free agents and you may not get them back. Our mission is to create a workforce plan that will help you as an industry develop full-time or as nearly full-time employment as possible," Bradshaw said. "What we are trying to get people to do is to look at agriculture as not just a job, but as a vocation."
To aid agricultural employers to build a stable workforce, Bradshaw announced funding opportunities available such as the federal Workforce Investment Act.
"We think we can develop with you a great workforce development plan that can help stabilize the workforce for you while you either mechanize portions of it or work on immigration," Bradshaw said.
As she concluded her presentation, Bradshaw invited questions and comments from the audience. Several Farm Bureau members expressed interest in educating the next generation of agricultural workers.
Stanislaus County rancher John Herlihy, who sits on an agriculture advisory board for the local community college district and for the California State University agricultural department, praised the governor's support of vocational technical education.
"We've lost a generation because our Legislature felt that you were going to have to go to college and that is the only way that the youth of today could succeed. So we basically told that generation that they were of little worth to the people of California," Herlihy said. "I'm so proud of Gov. Schwarzenegger for standing behind vocational ag and I can't say enough to these students to show them that they have worth and that they can be valuable citizens to our state and to our nation."
Bradshaw offered to work to develop an organized effort in the area of vocational technical education.
"We've lost a good portion of our skilled labor by eliminating vocational technical education out of our high schools and out of the educational system as a whole," Bradshaw said. "Over the course of the last 30 years, I think we marginalize the number of our kids who had no intention of going to college or couldn't get onto college. But the school system was set up where you either went on to college or you were declared a failure. The governor doesn't believe that is the case."
If farmers and ranchers want additional funding spent on agricultural vocational technical education, Bradshaw suggested that pressure be put on local school districts and community colleges to make this a priority. She suggested that people share statistics that show how economically valuable agriculture is to the local area.
When asked to comment on the administration's position on guest or temporary workers, Bradshaw agreed that the issue is an important one and needs to be resolved, not ignored.
San Diego County tomato grower Luawanna Hallstrom, who chairs the CFBF's Labor Advisory Committee, suggested that passing of the federal AgJOBS legislation coupled with a workforce program would be a great benefit to California agriculture.
"If for instance we are fortunate enough to see solutions in the near future like AgJOBS legislation, the workforce would stay in agriculture for 35 years," Hallstrom said. "So perhaps by partnering with your workforce program we can keep them in agriculture for the long term."
Bradshaw was the first woman to serve as the California Labor Commissioner and served as director of the California Employment Development Department and Deputy Chief of Staff and cabinet secretary to Gov. Pete Wilson.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura, who is also a farmer in Orange County, also addressed delegates. He said he wants the state to play a larger role in developing the new federal farm bill.
"We'll be involved in putting together a farm bill that is California-friendly," Kawamura said. "We will try very hard through grassroots efforts to educate Congress with a blueprint of what a California farm bill should look like, also a farm bill of the nation. This nation cannot afford a shrinking pie farm bill, can't back off the investment the nation makes in its food supply and energy supply as well."
(Dave Kranz is media services manager for CFBF. He may be contacted at email@example.com. Christine Souza is a reporter for Ag Alert. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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