CCM’s Alyssa Houtby recently joined representatives from several agricultural associations this week for a roundtable forum with the UC Ag Sustainability Institute and advocacy group “Root of Change” about the future of California agriculture, the regulatory, political, and natural resource issues facing the industry, and opportunities for collaboration.

The forum was hosted by the California Rice Commission with the goal of identifying synergies between agriculture, research, and “think tank” organizations that influence policies and regulations affecting agriculture at the state level.  Thomas Tomich, Director of the Agriculture Sustainability Institute moderated the discussion along with CA Rice Commission President Tim Johnson and Michael Dimoch, President of Roots of Change.

The conversation began with a simple question to participants, “What keeps you (or your association’s members) up at night?” Not surprisingly, the responses were similar:  water supply, labor, government regulation, increasing costs of doing business, trade and market access, food safety, and pest and disease.

With a long list of issues on the table, the next question posed to participants was, “What are the big opportunities you see for the future?”  For over an hour, the discussion focused on how, through collaboration, innovative thinking, and scientific data, can the agriculture industry take these significant challenges and create opportunities.  It was a refreshing dialogue.

Here’s a list of only some of the areas that CCM sees a bright future and big opportunities for the citrus industry:

  • California’s Water Resiliency Plan – Creating a comprehensive approach to how water is managed and delivered to California farmers, communities, and the environment.
  • Technology – Leveraging modern technologies to equip growers and packers with the tools necessary to be competitive, comply with regulation, and reduce costs.
  • Incentive Programs – Engage in collaborative advocacy for agriculture incentive programs that have a proven benefit to the industry and rural communities.
  • Rural Communities and economic development – The Governor has visited the Central Valley and rural communities across the State more times in his first year in office than his predecessor did over the course of his full 8-year term. These communities depend on a strong agricultural sector.  Policies that promote agriculture lift up rural economies.  Collaborative messaging and scientific data help make our argument stronger.
  • Climate Change – The State of California considers itself a leader on climate change policies. In Sacramento, there is no debate that the climate is changing. How does agriculture fit into this conversation positively? We argue that increased pest pressures are a consequence of a changing climate as are conditions of prolonged drought.  The State must address these issues by recognizing the problems and investing the necessary resources to provide real solutions.
  • Farm-to-Fork – Harness and leverage the public’s growing interest in food production to appeal to consumers and lawmakers on the importance of agriculture to California.

Though unconventional, the forum provided a platform for meaningful dialogue and strategic planning between typically opposing voices.  We look forward to finding opportunities to work with Roots of Change and the University of CA to address a number of policy and political challenges.