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Commentary: It’s time to think ahead to 2012 elections

Issue Date: May 18, 2011
By Casey Gudel

Illustration/California State Senate
Casey Gudel

By now, many of you are in full swing, preparing for your busiest time of the year. Many have started irrigating their trees; a number of crops are going in the ground; hay is down across the state; and cattle trucks are moving stock from their winter to summer feed.

There is a lot of planning, preparation and maintenance that goes into producing a successful crop each growing season. And we are no different in what we are doing to plan, prepare and maintain our political program in anticipation for the next election cycle.

The 2012 election cycle will bring a number of opportunities, but many factors are at play and we are doing our best to seek out, support and help elect the best candidates who will keep business and agricultural interests at heart. Here are some of the things we're monitoring and doing:

The 2012 election will be the first for which the new, independent commission, rather than the state Legislature, will have drawn the districts for the Legislature, Board of Equalization and Congress. The commission is currently taking public comment on how those lines are drawn and is expected to release the first draft of maps in early June.

Depending on the outcome of these maps, there may be significant shifts in representation, causing a domino effect on those who decide to run for Congress, the state Senate or state Assembly. Farm Bureau will be monitoring how the lines are drawn and what impacts that may have on agricultural areas.

Despite the fact that we do not yet know how the districts will look, a number of candidates are already seeking support and endorsements from community leaders. Farm Bureau is partnering with other business groups to do research in every open district to surface the most business-friendly candidates.

Speaking of candidate recruitment, have you considered running for office? There is no doubt that we could use more farmers and ranchers in elected offices—across all levels of government—who can help other decision makers understand the farming and ranching way of life.

Farm Bureau is hosting a seminar July 12-13 in Sacramento to help people who are considering a run for elected office to establish the skills they need to be successful on Election Day. Developed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, which utilizes input from both sides of the aisle, this two-day seminar is packed with hands-on activities that boast a 76 percent success rate with thousands of candidates nationwide.

Once the district lines have been established and candidates recruited, it will be time to support and help elect the best candidates.While controversial to some, the open primary will provide agriculture and the business community more opportunities to influence the outcome of elections. We saw a number of races in 2010 where candidates who supported farmers and ranchers lost by just a few votes. This change will allow us to work with our allies to advance the most business-friendly candidates to the General Election.

The final step in preparing our program for 2012 is rebuilding and refueling our political engine. We had some great success in 2010, meeting two of our main goals: electing more business-friendly legislators, and maintaining bipartisan representation in the Legislature by ensuring no party achieved a two-thirds supermajority, which is required for the approval of taxes and veto overrides on policy issues.

And, while the California Farm Bureau Fund to Protect the Family Farm (FARM PACSM) has been the leading voice for farmers and ranchers in the political arena for 35 years, preparing for 2012 and embracing the opportunities to make a difference will take all of us—farmers, ranchers and business owners—to change the way government operates in Sacramento. By working together and pooling our resources, we can achieve great things.

Just imagine the change we could realize if each of Farm Bureau's agricultural members gave at least $100 per year. We could counter the special interests that so often support candidates and initiatives that threaten the farming and ranching way of life and the ability of business to prosper in California.

Regardless of what level you participate in the political process, you have a stake in the outcome of elections statewide. Many of the elected representatives who make decisions on a daily basis that will impact the way you live your life and run your business have little knowledge or concern about agriculture. The combined resources provided by our members through FARM PAC will be used to help elect individuals who appreciate the contributions agriculture makes to our state's economy.

As you review your business plan, consider your investment in FARM PAC, whether it is checking the box on your membership renewal, responding to a fundraising letter or participating in a county fundraising effort. It's a small investment with big returns.

(Casey Gudel is manager of Political Affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation. She may be contacted at

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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