February 2, 2024

Don’t Break What Works

We are all familiar with the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a catch-all phrase that attempts to capture the understanding that your time should be spent focusing on the truly important matters that need urgent resolution. A closer look at the usage of this phrase also infers that most tasks take time and that the outcome should be worth the effort given. It’s not an extraordinary piece of insight, yet it’s one that seems to be escaping the mindset of many government leaders in California these days. It seems they are more in line with, “Let’s break what already got fixed.”

The concept of dismantling what already works has profound consequences on both our personal and business lives. This is not to say that innovation, creativity and new concepts are not important. They absolutely are. Progress is important for everyone. I’m talking about the almost constant and intentional throwing of a wrench into the engine of business and agricultural operations that routinely occurs in Sacramento. We see this in many policy areas including labor, sustainable pest management and air quality goals. It causes great uncertainty for growers in managing their current operations let alone making strategic decisions on three-to-five-year farm plans. Growers especially should have reasonable expectations about the costs that they will be incurring for new requirements that are being mandated by legislators and regulators. Even if cost is not a factor, will the new requirement allow for us to continue to grow the safe and nutritious food that our communities expect to be available on the shelves? These are not easy questions to answer but they need to be.

This is very relevant because, at the time of this writing, the state budget for 2024-2025 is likely to be in a severe deficit due to revenue declines. How severe? A total of $68 billion severe! For context, the total state budget passed for the 2022-2023 fiscal year was $310 billion. There will undoubtedly be many budget cuts this year to ongoing programs as well as discontinuing one-time spending. There area slew of programs that should be reconsidered. There are also many that WG advocates will be vigorously fighting for.

Going back to the basics of what works is really important given what might be some unescapable realities of the next state budget. We will be advocating to reduce pressures on our growers with the goal of ensuring that California agriculture remains vibrant and successful. California should, at a minimum, pause further implementation of the California Air Resources Board Advanced Clean Fleet regulation. Affirmation should be given that current sustainable pest management goals only work if alternatives have been identified, registered, deemed effective, and are efficient. Additional labor costs should be mitigated; at least don’t add further burdens. The inflation rate may have started to decline, but overall prices are still high. Consumers and businesses are all feeling the pinch.

Focusing on the basics is not “lazy.” It’s a recognition of what is required at a particular moment in time. In learning about how to handle flight emergencies in my early days of flight school, my instructor would always say, “Fly the plane first.” The clear message was to focus on immediate priorities and be careful not to make errors that could lead to unnecessary complications. Our leaders should follow the same principal. Recognize what has historically worked and take the proverbial foot off of the legislative/regulatory gas pedal in order to give our economy, our businesses and our consumers the time to manage those challenges that have been laid at our feet.