(Feb. 9) SAN FRANCISCO — The California budget crisis is bad enough that there was talk of closing agricultural border inspection stations or even charging growers to continue some state services.

But A.G. Kawamura, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, wasn’t about to let that happen.

“Not on this watch,” he told a Jan. 29 lunch audience at the annual meeting of the Irvine-based United Agribusiness League. United Agribusiness League is an agricultural association that provides a variety of insurance and industry lobbying services to about 1,100 members in the Western U.S.

Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture budget should weather the financial crisis, Kawamura said. But that doesn’t end any of the threats facing the industry, he said.

Growers, other agricultural producers and the associations that represent them need to come together now more than ever, not only to fight for their own economic viability but also for the well being of their customers and the vitality of the state, Kawamura said.

The challenges facing agriculture are linked, Kawamura said. So, too, should be the solutions.

“We all have parallel programs dealing with the issues that confront all of our businesses,” said Kawamura, a strawberry grower and past chairman of Western Growers.

“But the problem with parallel lines is that they never meet. Let’s work on converging lines.”

Kawamura said California’s county fairs this year plan to offer their visions of what a state renaissance would look like. He challenged agricultural growers, shippers and other producers to send suggestions to him about what such a renaissance would mean for agriculture and how it would be achieved.

He said the job won’t be easy.

Kawamura said his agency has lost about a third of its budget in the past four years.

“We’re at a level where the core competency of the department, which is to protect and promote the agricultural industry of California, we’re at a point where we were saying, ‘How can we promote what we can’t protect?’” Kawamura said. “But it’s not enough to say how do you promote what you can’t protect. How do you protect what the state doesn’t understand? And it’s clear this state doesn’t understand agriculture.”