(Dec. 15) California Department of Food and Agriculture Undersecretary A.J. Yates announced Dec. 11 he will retire on Jan. 15.

Yates, 72, launched a public service career in 1991 after more than 30 years of farming in Fresno County. He said he still has plans to be involved in public service.

“I’ll do a little farming,” Yates said, “but my children have that pretty much under control.”

Yates said his family grows grapes for raisins.

Yates said he hopes to be active in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s San Joaquin Valley Partnership, a program aimed at maintaining the viability of the valley’s agribusiness industry. Another of his interests, he said, is vocational education for students who elect not to pursue traditional college studies. But running for office is not in his future.

“I’m too old for that, and my wife would throw me out,” Yates said.

Yates said he is optimistic about Schwarzenegger’s vision for agriculture. The San Joaquin Valley Partnership is charged with protecting agriculture through directing urban growth. Yates said encroachment and water will continue to be major California agricultural issues for the foreseeable future.

A major hurdle for California agriculture, Yates said, is the revolving door for Sacramento lawmakers due to the state’s term limits law. He said agriculture must constantly educate new legislators, most of whom represent urban areas.

Yates served under California Food and Agriculture Secretaries Henry Voss, Ann Veneman and Bill Lyons, Jr., from 1991 to 2000 when then-U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Veneman lured Yates to Washington, D.C., where he spent four years as administrator of Agricultural Marketing Services.