ANAHEIM, Calif. — Despite “onerous regulations,” continuing drought conditions and economic uncertainty, the future remains bright for California farmers.

That’s the message about 850 of the state’s agricultural leaders and growers received Dec. 7 when Doug Mosebar, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation; Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation; and A.G. Kawamura, California secretary of agriculture, spoke at the 91st annual meeting of the California Farm Bureau Federation at the Disneyland Hotel Dec. 5-9.

Water — or lack of it — may well be the most serious issue facing the state, Mosebar said.

Three years of natural drought coupled with a “regulatory drought” have put growers in a kind of blackjack game, he said, forcing them to ask, “Should we take another card, hold or fold and get out?”

Water issues dominate California Farm Bureau meeting

Tom Burfield

Allan Price (right), president of the Orange County Farm Bureau, welcomes Doug Mosebar (left), president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, and Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, to Anaheim, Calif., for the 91st annual meeting of the California Farm Bureau Federation held at the Disneyland Hotel Dec. 5-9.

“Water is the lifeblood of agriculture,” he said. Growers and their detractors must work together to develop solutions that balance the needs of all users.

The key to resolving many of the state’s agricultural challenges is political involvement, Mosebar said.

He encouraged members to get involved in fundraising, make political contacts and join the bureau’s Farm Team, which enables members to become “armchair activists” with a few clicks of a mouse.

For the immediate future, Mosebar sees the farm bureau fighting trade protectionism, opposing fees and higher taxes and restoring Williamson Act funds, which provide tax breaks to growers and ranchers.

He also sees a positive trade situation, particularly with Canada, California’s largest farm export market, and, at some point, with Cuba.

“If we don’t sell to (Cuba), someone else will,” he said.

Kawamura commiserated with growers, telling them, “This has been a rough year.”

State government, including the Department of Food and Agriculture, has suffered an enormous revenue shortfall; farm workers and growers alike have been called criminals because they are working illegally or hiring illegally; food safety crises have discouraged consumers from buying some of the state’s best produce; invasive pests threaten crops; and growers are having to adapt to climate change, he said.

The industry, which accounts for only 2% of the U.S. population, must unite and “converge resources” to face common issues rather than bicker, he said.

Separate entities making parallel efforts to solve problems won’t work, he said. “Parallel lines never meet.”

“There are tremendous challenges to agriculture,” Kawamura said, “but there are opportunities.”

Some of the biggest challenges facing agriculture are “manmade calamities, such as unwarranted government action that limit your productivity,” Stallman said.

He opposes mandatory cap and trade and believes that lowering emissions to the level where the government would like them to be by 2020 is “untenable.”

He called for increased trade, and he expressed concern about the expanding federal deficit.

“We’re printing money like a 1920s counterfeiter and spending like a drunken sailor,” he said. “This can’t go on.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation has formed a task force to research and recommend ways to achieve a balanced federal budget by 2019, he said.

In keeping with the theme of the meeting — Our Future, Our Farmers — Stallman said that, despite some bumps in the road, the future remains bright for agriculture largely because of the crop of young, up-and-coming growers who are taking their places in the industry.