Thank you to our Sponsors!

We wish to thank the following individuals and businesses that pledged $1,000 each to support the May 12th Ag Unite in Modesto:
A.L. Gilbert Co.
Almond Hullers & Processors Association
American AgCredit
Bays Ranch, Inc
Belkorp Ag
Blue Diamond
Blue Mountain Minerals
Braden Farms
Brichetto Bros.
Chiesa Ranch
Conlin Supply
Cunningham Ranch, Inc  
E.R. Vine & Sons
Fisher Nut Company 
F&M Bank
Flory Industries
Frantz Nursery
E&J Gallo Winery
Garton Tractor
Grower Direct Nut Company
Haley Farms
Hilmar Cheese Co.  
Heinrich Farms
Hughson Nut Company 
Hollandia Nursery/David & Gina Van Klaveren
J. Wilmar Jensen, Inc. 
Lyon’s Investments
Louis & Joanne Brichetto 
Mapes Ranch/Lyon’s Land Management
Melvin T. Wheeler & Sons, LP
Mid Valley Ag
Modesto Commerce-Bank of Stockton 
Modesto Irrigation District
My Job Depends on Ag (MJDOA)
Oakdale Irrigation District 
Orestimba Nursery
Pape Machinery
Paul & Deborah Wenger 
San Joaquin-Stanislaus Cattlemen’s Association
Smith Chevrolet Cadillac, Inc 
Stanislaus Farm Supply
T&M Farms
Trinitas Farming  
Turlock Irrigation District
V.A. Rodden Inc.
Varni Brothers Corporation 
Veterinary Service Inc. (VSI)
Waterford Irrigation
Yosemite Farm Credit

Event stresses need for agricultural unity

Faced with a profusion of regulations and mandates, California farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses more than ever need to unify to make their collective voice heard in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.: That was the message of a rally that attracted an estimated 800 agriculturalists to Modesto.

The Ag Unite event, held last week in the agricultural pavilion at Modesto Junior College, described challenges facing family farmers and ranchers and outlined the need to overcome regional and commodity differences to work together on issues of common concern.

Speaking to attendees at the event, California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger discussed issues affecting the state’s farmers, including drought and water-related issues, environmental regulations and the challenge of communicating the many benefits of agriculture to the food-purchasing public.

Ultimately, he said, “the state’s farmers and ranchers should be unified and speaking with one voice. We’ve got to do something that is going to make a difference.”

Wenger offered Farm Bureau membership and participation as a way to assure unified advocacy for California farmers and ranchers.

“We’ve got to unite. We’ve got to support our county Farm Bureaus and we’ve got to get politically active,” said Wenger, a walnut and almond farmer from Modesto. “When it comes to fighting back against the onslaught that we have before us today, we have to work together and that is why we have Ag Unite.”

Organized by county Farm Bureau leaders, Ag Unite focuses on enhancing agricultural advocacy by growing Farm Bureau membership; encouraging support of FARM PAC®, the California Farm Bureau Fund to Protect the Family Farm; and promoting the Ag Unite Legal Action Fund. The Modesto event was cosponsored by the county Farm Bureaus in Merced, San Joaquin, Sacramento, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.

During the Ag Unite rally, Tom Hart, who is based in Ceres and specializes in chemical sales for the dairy business, said he had decided to join several county Farm Bureaus.

“One of my customers down south became president of the Tulare County Farm Bureau and he asked me to join. He said, ‘You should actually join every Farm Bureau where you sell products,'” said Hart, who is already a member of the Tulare County Farm Bureau. “It makes sense. Every area has different issues that they are fighting, so it is nice to know what is going on in every area.”

Merced County Farm Bureau Executive Director Breanne Ramos, who was staffing a table for the county Farm Bureau at the event, said, “It is important that we bring agriculture together as a united voice and a united front.”

Nut crop grower Eric Heinrich of Modesto, a Stanislaus County Farm Bureau board member, said all segments of California agriculture must come together because “agriculture is getting picked off one by one.”

“Take Proposition 2,” he said, referring to the 2008 ballot initiative on housing standards for egg-laying hens. “It was about the poultry guys, so it doesn’t (directly) affect the hay guys or the dairymen, but ultimately it does. We’ve got to come and fight together and be more unified in agriculture.”

Heinrich added that water is a continuous fight in California and farmers need to work together to protect their historic water rights.

Tuolumne County Farm Bureau President Shaun Crook, who staffed a table at Ag Unite, said “farmers and ranchers need to organize the way that the environmental movement has over the last 30 years.”

Crook, a logging contractor who is also in the cattle business, said an issue for his family is forest management, which affects timber supply, water quality and cattle grazing. He said ineffective forest management contributes to wildfire danger, including the 2013 Rim Fire that burned more than a quarter-million acres of Sierra Nevada land.

“The Rim Fire alone took away over two and a half years of any benefits from AB 32 (legislation to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions), just in one month of a wildfire,” Crook said.

Wenger reminded those at the event that it is important for people involved in agriculture to be actively engaged in electing business-friendly candidates to the Legislature from San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego and other cities.

“We can explain to them that what is good for agriculture is good for the entire state of California,” he said.

Following his talk, Wenger introduced nut grower Rich McGowan of Chico, one of the originators of the Ag Unite concept who helped organize the first Ag Unite rally in Butte County in 2013.

McGowan described a recent experience during which he and his son spent an entire day with a county environmental health official. He reminded his fellow farmers, “that’s just one department, one agency,” and said it provides an example of the day-to-day scrutiny farmers and ranchers face.

“I commit $2,500 to the FARM PAC program and $2,500 to the Ag Unite Legal Action Fund program and I challenge you to match that,” McGowan said. “There’s not a farmer out here that doesn’t have a cultural budget that they operate on. I offer this: (create) a budget line item that says Ag Unite, a budget line item to preserve farming life.”

McGowan added, “I’m here for the opportunity for the next 10, 20, 30 years for me, my son, my daughters, to continue farming—and I don’t see that happening without Ag Unite.”

For more information about Ag Unite, see

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at

Reprinted with permission from California Farm Bureau Federation.

Ag Alert, May 18, 2016

Ag Unite Comes to Modesto on May 12th

Mark your calendars for Thursday, May 12, as the Farm Bureau’s of Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Merced, San Joaquin and Sacramento counties come together to present Ag Unite. Ag Unite is a gathering of farmers, ranchers, landowners and agricultural businesses that want to see an end to our fragmented agriculture community.

The purpose of Ag Unite is to come together and support Farm Bureau’s political action fund, our legal action fund, and increase Farm Bureau membership.  A previous Ag Unite event was held in Butte County in 2013 and saw great success, according to Caitie Campodonico, Stanislaus County Farm Bureau (SCFB) programs director and Ag Unite organizer.

“Who better to speak on behalf of agriculture than Farm Bureau?” Campodonico said. “Ag Unite hopes to unify our industry to give us a stronger political voice.”

The event will be an opportunity to hear from California Farm Bureau Federation President and Modesto farmer Paul Wenger as he sheds light on the burdens of overregulation and what we as agriculturists can do about it.

“Ag Unite will be a great opportunity to hear from Paul and others about how regulation has affected their livelihoods,” said SCFB President, Joey Gonsalves. “Ag is a minority and we all sit and complain about it but don’t really do anything about it. This is an opportunity to come together and take action, that’s what it’s all about.”

Ag Unite will be held at the Modesto Junior College ACE Pavilion (Brink & Shoemake Ave, Modesto) at 11:30 a.m. until approximately 2 p.m. and lunch will be served. There is no cost to attend Ag Unite and ALL farmers, ranchers, landowners and ag business owners are invited, regardless of where you live or what you produce.

Sponsorships are $1,000 each and there is no limit to how many are available. For more information or to make a sponsorship pledge, please call the SCFB office at (209) 522-7278 or email Caitie Campodonico at

We wish to thank the individuals and businesses that have already pledged $1,000 each to support Ag Unite:

American AgCredit
BelKorp Ag
Blue Diamond
E.R. Vine & Sons
F&M Bank
Heinrich Farms
Hollandia Nursery/David & Gina Van Klaveren
Lyon’s Investments
Mapes Ranch/Lyon’s Land Management
Melvin T. Wheeler & Sons, LP
Mid Valley Ag
Modesto Irrigation District
Orestimba Nursery
San Joaquin-Stanislaus Cattlemen’s Association
Smith Chevrolet
Stanislaus Farm Supply
Turlock Irrigation District
Waterford Irrigation
Yosemite Farm Credit

Commentary: As agriculture becomes specialized, it’s time to reunite

The following editorial was printed in the September 11, 2013 issue of Ag Alert.
By Tito Sasaki, President Sonoma County farm Bureau

More than 600 people gathered in June for an Ag Unite event in Chico, focused on the need for greater agricultural unity and political involvement.

Ag Unite was the banner under which some 600 people rallied in Chico on June 12. It was organized by the county Farm Bureaus of Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Shasta, Tehama and Yuba/Sutter. It aimed to bring together all people whose living depends on agriculture, and to raise funds for Farm PAC and the Ag Unite Legal Fund. They have so far raised over $80,000 for building effective and substantial political and legal war chests.

Two important aspects of Ag Unite are: to reunite and re-ignite the ag industries often fragmented by commodity, organic vs. conventional, size, trades, etc., and to focus on the need to contribute substantial funds for political and legal advocacy.

The Farm Bureau, being the only organization that encompasses the entire agricultural community, must fight for the common interest of all its members in the increasingly challenging political and regulatory environment. We the members need to recognize that it is a necessary cost of doing business in these days to defend our interest by sending contributions regularly to FARM PAC® and the Ag Unite Legal Fund.

When the Farm Bureau was born a century ago, farmers accounted for over 15 percent of the U.S. population. A typical American farm then had draft horses or mules, two cows for uninterrupted supply of milk, pigs and chickens for meat and eggs, and a small garden for the family’s vegetables. Farmers fed, bred and took care of their beasts, maintained their implements, made their own fertilizers and took their produce on their wagons to the market.

Today, most farmers buy their milk, eggs, bacon, vegetables and bread at supermarkets; their “mules, horses, and implements” are made by John Deere, Ram, Case IH and such; fertilizers by Mosaic, Yara or others; and the crop shipped by truckers and by rail.

Not only farming itself but also its supporting businesses became specialized and fragmented. The supporting activities are no longer classified as agriculture, and their variety is increasing. They now include computer and IT industries and marketing, legal, financial and environmental specialists. Since 1950, the U.S. agricultural output per farmer rose 12-fold. This came about hand in hand with the growth of such supporting industries.

The census statistics may say that the agricultural population is now only about 1 percent of the total. But this does not tell the whole story. A 1995 U.S. Department of Agriculture study titled “Measuring the Economy-wide Effect of the Farm Sector” revealed that, for every dollar of farm production, $14 were generated by the supporting industries, and for every farm employment, 10 to 11 people were working outside the farm to complement the farm production. So, 10 percent to 15 percent of the nation’s economy is still dependent on agriculture, but the core farming population is shrinking.

The challenge is how to identify and bring back our growing “brothers and sisters” to the Farm Bureau family. Sonoma County Farm Bureau now has about 3,300 members. But, if 10 percent of the county’s households are ag-related, 15,000 more members should be joining us. We must reunite and get stronger; else, we will forfeit our future.

 (Tito Sasaki, a Sonoma Valley grape grower, is president of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.)
Reprinted with permission from California Farm Bureau Federation

Ag Unite event emphasizes need for action

The following article was printed on June 19, 2013 in Ag Alert.
By Steve Adler

This is a very critical time for everyone involved in agriculture, and it is time to unite and fight back.

California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger delivered that message to more than 600 farmers, ranchers and representatives of allied businesses who packed into a special meeting in Chico last week.

Called Ag Unite and organized by Farm Bureaus from seven counties—Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Shasta, Tehama, Yuba and Sutter—the first-of-its-kind meeting focused on the need for greater political involvement through organizations such as FARM PAC® and formation of a legal defense fund to participate in key court cases.

Jamie Johansson, CFBF second vice president and an olive grower from Oroville, noted that the agricultural sector, when viewed within a national economy that is somewhat stagnated, should be seen as a catalyst for fiscal recovery.

“But unfortunately, Washington, D.C., and Sacramento have become so far removed from rural America that they aren’t hearing the message,” Johansson said.

Following up on that theme, Wenger expressed optimism that such Ag Unite meetings will expand to other areas of the state.

The need for agricultural unity was supported by several North State farmers who described in a video how they had been financially hammered by state and federal government regulations. Their stories described onerous regulations dealing with air quality, water issues and the way land was to be farmed.

For example, Irv Leen, a farmer and beef producer in Oroville, described a situation where he bought a piece of ground and sold a portion of it to another farmer.

“That farmer cleaned out a ditch that had been littered with tires, air conditioners, old engines and things (left by a previous owner). A helicopter flew over and saw the pile of debris and sent out a game warden, who gave the man a ticket. And four days before the statute of limitations was up, they also charged me,” Leen said.

“I was charged with four counts: trespassing on my own land, interrupting a free-passing stream, maintaining a public nuisance and not getting a permit to dig in a ditch. When they came after me with those charges, I didn’t feel that it was right,” he said.

Leen said he made the decision to fight a legal battle that lasted eight years and entailed 80 sessions in court.

“I spent over $250,000 in attorney fees and studies to finally be totally acquitted on all four charges,” he said.

Darin Titus, field manager for Hart Farms in Orland, described how regulations hamper the development of an orchard in Tehama County.

“We have a piece of ground that has a farming history and a farm base. The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies it as farm ground, but what has happened is that they have changed the rules on what kind of crop you can put on that farm ground,” he said. “The issues they have with the orchard, unlike when you are planting a grain crop, is that when you are establishing an orchard you have to deep rip or deep till the ground prior to planting.”

Titus said that even though the proposed site was adjacent to an established orchard, he is being required to do a complete biological study on it prior to development.

Three other farmers—Larry Willadsen of Durham, lawyer and rancher Darrin Mercier of Yreka and orchardist Rich McGowan of Nord—also described frustrations in dealing with confusing or conflicting regulations.

Wenger said that when he travels around the state, he hears similar stories, adding that this underlines the need for everyone in agriculture to speak in one, united voice.

“When I talk with farmers, I ask what bothers them the most: Is it the weather? Is it the markets? They say no, it is regulations that just keep coming. So what do you do about regulations?” he asked. “Unfortunately, a lot of people in this state and Washington, D.C., do take agriculture for granted. We have got to make sure we can go out and fight and protect our way of life. We know what we are doing is good; we just have to convince those other folks.”

Wenger went on to describe how a trip to the coffee shop many years ago led him to become involved in Farm Bureau.

“When I went to the coffee shop, all I did was hear people complain and complain. And what did they do about it? Nothing. That was the last time I went to the coffee shop,” he said. “How many of you have been to a meeting where you hear someone say, ‘Well, things are getting pretty tough, but they are going to miss us when we’re gone’? Oh, really? They will bring the products in from another state, from another country. They won’t miss us. We have got to fight for ourselves.”

The CFBF president said it is important for all active farmers and ranchers within a family to have individual Farm Bureau memberships rather than a single membership for the family.

But joining Farm Bureau is only the beginning, Wenger said, adding that farmers and ranchers should support FARM PAC to help elect individuals to public office who understand agriculture.

“When you think about Sacramento, two-thirds of the Senate districts have little or no agriculture and 72 percent of the Assembly districts have little or no agriculture. Why should they care? The only reason they are going to care is if we can mount an aggressive campaign to make sure we get the right people elected from San Francisco and LA and San Diego. And that means we have to assess ourselves dollars,” he said.

Wenger said one of the greatest strengths of agriculture in California is its diversity, but it is also one of its greatest challenges.

“We are in this together, folks. I don’t care if you are an organic grower or a conventional grower, if you are a fourth- or fifth-generation cattleman in Siskiyou County or you are farming a half-acre of herbs in Alameda County and you’ve got earrings and tattoos all over your body. We face the same issues; we are cut out of the same cloth. We might look different, we might talk different, but we’re farmers,” he said.

Reprinted with permission from the California Farm Bureau Federation

Who’s Next?

Stay tuned for the announcement of future Ag Unite events in your local area. Are you interested in coordinating one in your community? Contact Colleen at (530) 533-1473 to learn how.

Thank you for attending Ag Unite!

What a great event! We hope you thought so too. Thank you for coming. Please stay tuned to this website for updates about the Ag Unite movement and hopefully updates on future events. We will soon post pictures from the June 12th event in Chico and hope to have the video that was played available on the front page of this website very soon. Check back often.

 papers on table