March 1, 2023

The Need to Place Food Security Front and Center in Policy

Admittedly, I’m a light sleeper. This combined with the fact that I’m an avowed coffee drinker make for many nights that I’m left to my own quiet thoughts as my family peacefully drifts off to sleep. Although I realize that I need to get back to a regular sleep schedule, I’ve grown increasingly accustomed to this being a time for me to ponder legislation and regulations that are currently affecting or, if passed, would affect California’s agricultural industry and what strategic and tactical responses Western Growers should undertake to limit negative consequences and instead encourage positive outcomes. Food security is the topic that has been front and center in my thoughts lately. The more thought I give it, the more worried I get. In fact, I’m asking myself on every piece of legislation that gets introduced: “What impact would this legislation or these regulations have on food security?”

Food security is a broad topic that encompasses national security, economic security and personal well-being. I’m increasingly concerned, if not convinced, that not enough attention is being given to this basic and needed function—the ability of farmers to adequately provide for this nation’s food supply in the future.

By and large, we’ve been living through a time of plenty where anything that we would like to eat is readily available. There is a seemingly endless array of commodities for us to enjoy as well as export. Given this, it’s natural human behavior for us to not worry about the future and just take for granted that the food system in place today will simply remain into the future. I’m guilty of taking it for granted, too.

The actions that California continues to take in policy areas including labor, water, crop protection and air quality are all factors that are adding unnecessary challenges to our ability to maintain strong food systems. Shouldn’t California officials be working with our industry to find reasonable and effective solutions for our labor shortages, allocating more funding for construction of new water storage systems, incentivizing additional (not fewer) crop protection tools and focusing on ensuring that we can move our crops out of the field and to consumer tables should there be a failure of our electrical grid? The answer is a clear and resounding “Yes.”

To that end, WG advocates are asking the “How?” question in all of our meetings with legislators and regulators, whether it’s on the state’s sustainable pest management goals, more water storage, or on the overall carbon neutrality mandate. It’s one thing to set the goal and another thing entirely to achieve it in such a manner as to not disrupt business operations and livelihoods. Getting this right is crucial. We have to find a successful pathway forward for future generations. Yes, that’s an often-used phrase, but true nonetheless.

The primacy of food security should be driving the state’s policy considerations instead of virtue signaling press conferences and bill proposals that assuage the needs of today but ignores the realities of tomorrow.