Statewide group seeks to boost farms' clout
Agriculture shortchanged politically, bureau
By Jim Wasserman -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Saturday, May 21, 2005
Touting a poll showing that 46 percent of
California's likely voters believe state
government does too little to protect the state's
nearly $30 billion agribusiness sector, a
statewide farm group is hardening its political
and fundraising strategy to promote a new business
This week, the 87,000-member California Farm
Bureau Federation told state lawmakers many farmers
"openly question whether California can maintain its
agricultural heritage" in the face of taxes, fees
and workers' compensation costs they say are the
nation's second highest after West Virginia.
The industry group, claiming that its economic
base shrinks by 100,000 acres yearly under pressures
of urban growth and that regulatory costs are double
those of other Western states, said it plans to
issue "legislative scorecards" like other Capitol
interest groups and raise up to $1 million a year
for state political campaigns.
Last year, the farm bureau's political action
committee raised $427,335.
"When you get pushed in individual situations at
work or at home, you tend to take it for a while,"
said Bill Pauli, a Mendocino County grape grower,
winery owner and farm bureau president.
"We're finally to the point of 'we've had it.'
That's why you see us drawing some lines in the
Business analysts find no surprise in the new
"I think the ag sector, at least vote-wise, is a
small percentage," said agribusiness consultant
William Mott of Larkspur-based Agland Investment
Services. "It's always struggling to have a voice,
and I think this is probably a reaction to trying to
have a stronger voice."
Though California's 77,000 farms and ranches sold
$27.8 billion in farm products in 2003, those in the
industry feel increasingly stressed by rising
government permit fees, state regulatory paperwork
and some of the nation's toughest environmental
rules, Pauli said.
Changing things won't be easy.
A 2004 poll of 2,500 residents and likely voters
by the Public Policy Institute of California
reported 54 percent of likely voters favored the
environment over economic growth as a top public
The farm bureau survey of 900 likely voters by
New York-based McLaughlin & Associates found 46.7
percent believe the state is doing too little to
protect family farmers and ranchers.
About 26 percent said the state is doing the
right amount, and 21 percent didn't know.
Of those surveyed, 68 percent said the governor
and Legislature should protect farmers from "high
taxes and excessive regulations."
More than 86 percent surveyed also agreed family
farmers make a major contribution to California's
economy and job base.
"To voters as a whole, they understand the
importance it has in being part of the economic
engine in California," said Stuart Polk, vice
president of the polling firm.
The telephone survey, which was conducted in
English and Spanish on May 4-5 and May 8-9, has a
margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.
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