Monterey County Farm Bureau

CFBF Annual Meeting

The California Farm Bureau Federation held its Annual Meeting here in Monterey on December 8th - 11th.

Over 800 farmers and ranchers from across California attended to help shape policy and legislative priorities for 2014, as well as re-elect State Officers.

A few highlights:

Benny Jefferson Receives the 2014 Distinguished Service Award

Described as a man of integrity, honor, sincerity and a sense of duty, Monterey County agricultural leader Benny Jefferson has been presented with the Distinguished Service Award from the California Farm Bureau Federation.  Jefferson received the award today at the CFBF Annual Meeting in Monterey.

A past president of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, Jefferson also served from 2004 to 2010 on the CFBF Board of Directors, representing Monterey, San Benito and San Luis Obispo counties, and has been a leader in a number of other local and regional organizations.

“No one has given more of himself to agriculture in Monterey County and the Central Coast than Benny Jefferson,” CFBF President Paul Wenger said, “and no one has spread more goodwill. He’s well-known for his hearty laugh and sense of humor—but he also takes seriously the need to make sure that farming in California remains sustainable for generations to come, and is always willing to do his part to make sure that happens.”

A fifth-generation farmer, Jefferson grows vegetables and field crops in the Salinas Valley. Along with his longtime service to Farm Bureau, he has served as president of the California Rodeo Association, the Salinas River Channel Coalition and the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County, and on the boards of Monterey County Ag Education and the California Artichoke Advisory Board, among others.

“Benny’s involvement in many agricultural and community organizations is a testament to his strong commitment to his industry and Monterey County,” county Farm Bureau President Jeff Pereira wrote in nominating Jefferson for the award. “Benny has always held great pride in generously contributing his time and resources to many organizations and events.”

Farmers have a chance to change Sacramento

Saying the agriculture business appears to be as strong as at any point in his lifetime, California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger challenged farmers and ranchers to use that strength to bolster their political influence.

In his annual address during the organization’s 95th Annual Meeting in Monterey today, Wenger said CFBF will refocus its efforts on advocacy and the work it does for California farmers and ranchers, noting that that work also drives membership in the organization.

Wenger said farmers and ranchers “have the opportunity to change Sacramento” as a result of changes in the Legislature brought by the “top-two” primary system that took effect in 2012. Under that system, the top two candidates in a primary election advance to the general election, regardless of party.

As a result, he said, newly elected legislators are “ethnically diverse, urban and open-minded,” and that leaves him optimistic about the prospects for advancing legislation that benefits family farmers and ranchers.

Another recent change—allowing members of the Legislature to serve up to 12 years in the same office—means that elections to be held in 2014, 2016 and 2018 will be “extremely important for the political future of California,” Wenger said.

“The challenge is: Are we going to step up and do something about it, or are we going to sit back and let somebody else determine who is in those seats?” Wenger asked.

That means Farm Bureau needs to continue to build its political fundraising, he said.

“It is what we have to do to make sure we are relevant, and that we have a presence in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.,” to help business-friendly candidates win office, he said.

Farm Bureau honors young Agriculturalists

A fifth-generation rancher from San Benito County and an agricultural lender from San Joaquin County have been selected as winners of awards recognizing achievement and excellence by young agriculturalists. Allan Renz of Tres Pinos and Daniel Meza of Stockton were presented with their awards last night during the California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Monterey.

Renz won the Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award, recognizing efforts in production agriculture and leadership activity. In partnership with his parents, he raises beef cattle and hay, and oversees the family’s cattle and custom harvesting businesses. A graduate of California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, Renz serves as second vice president of the San Benito County Farm Bureau, president of the county cattlemen’s association and serves on the county Fish and Wildlife Commission.

“I work seven days a week because I believe in what we do and want our family operation to survive,” Renz wrote in his award application. “It is extremely important to me to serve as an advocate for agriculture.”

Meza earned the Excellence in Agriculture Award, given to an individual who does not earn a majority of income from production agriculture but who contributes through involvement in agriculture, leadership activities and Farm Bureau. As an assistant vice president for F&M Bank in Lodi, Meza manages a portfolio of primarily agricultural customers. He has also been active in Farm Bureau as chair of the San Joaquin Young Farmers and Ranchers, a frequent volunteer at educational activities and a member of the Leadership Farm Bureau class in 2012.

In his award application, Meza said he hopes “to be a voice for the industry and continue the fight for agriculture by advocating and spreading the message of the importance of agriculture.”

A graduate of California State University, Fresno, Meza also serves on the board of Sus Finanzas, a nonprofit organization that provides free financial literacy courses to underserved minority residents of San Joaquin County.

As winner of the Achievement Award, Renz receives use of a Kubota tractor for one year, furnished by Kubota Tractor Corp., and a cash prize of $4,000. For his award, Meza earns a $4,000 cash prize. Contest sponsors include the California Association of Pest Control Advisers, Farm Credit West, CoBank, American AgCredit and State Compensation Insurance Fund.

Renz and Meza will represent California in national competitions to be held next month at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in San Antonio.

Farm Bureau re-elect State leaders

In a unanimous vote of delegates at the California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting, CFBF President Paul Wenger was re-elected today to a new term in office. The election occurred at the end of the 95th CFBF Annual Meeting, held in Monterey.

Wenger begins his third two-year term as the 15th president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. A walnut and almond grower from Modesto, he has been a statewide officer of the organization since 1997, when he was elected second vice president. He was elected first vice president in 2005 and president in 2009.

“I can’t think of anything more humbling than to work for people that I respect like I respect all of you,” Wenger told Farm Bureau delegates following his re-election. “We’ll make sure to double down and over the next two years do as much as we can to support, protect and promote this great industry and all of you.”

CFBF delegates also re-elected First Vice President Kenny Watkins and Second Vice President Jamie Johansson to third terms in their offices.

Watkins raises beef cattle, walnuts and hay in Linden. He has been CFBF first vice president since 2009 and had previously served two terms as second vice president, beginning in 2005.

Johansson grows olives and operates an olive oil company in Oroville. He was first elected to statewide CFBF office in 2009 after serving as a vice president of the Butte County Farm Bureau.

Delegates also elected two new members to the CFBF Board of Directors: Mark McBroom of Calipatria will represent Imperial and San Diego counties, and John Ellis of Hanford will represent Kern and Kings counties.

Butte County Farm Bureau member Stacy Gore of Nelson was elected the new chairman of the CFBF Rural Health and Safety Committee.

Kevin Robertson of Hanford was elected to chair the statewide Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee.


Gore and Robertson will serve as advisory members of the CFBF board.