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Don Curlee

Don Curlee

Without direction from campaign professionals a grassroots movement that recognizes and credits California agriculture for its stature and contributions has captured the attention and support of an expanding fan base. Bumper stickers, signs and flags proclaim it, saying “My Job Depends on Ag.”

For many who display the slogan its declaration is true. Farmers naturally are proud to acknowledge their connection to food production, but the movement has quickly brought that same admission by a long and expanding list of suppliers of farm equipment, materials, services, advice and many who just want to generally express support for agriculture.

The movement could have begun in any number of prominent farm states, but several Californians who are deeply involved and committed to agriculture as a way of life deserve credit for providing early structure for it and for promoting events that gave it prominence.

The precise beginning of the movement is difficult to establish. Some point to the aerial photo that was taken about four years ago showing all the pieces of farm equipment required to produce and harvest one season’s crop of alfalfa. The spread covered a large part of a field near Mendota. It became part of a discussion of agricultural relevance on Fresno’s educational television station KVPT, creating excitement well beyond agriculture.

Viewer reaction led to several ag-related discussion programs on the same station dealing with drought, which was a major issue at the time, and other issues that arise on the farm but affect the lives of many who are far removed from the farm. The idea began to take root that many jobs off the farm depend on agriculture.

The educational TV station where the move first received recognition has since broadcast a number of 30-minute documentaries detailing crops or issues basic to farmers in the area. They have provided detail that informs the non-farm audience of the importance and permanence of each commodity featured. The programs have tended to make off-the-farm viewers proud of their area’s agricultural heritage and its contribution to the local lifestyle.

Instead of appreciating and supporting California’s agricultural economy the state legislature seems bent on controlling it. It has imposed new levels of restriction and detail on several traditional procedures native to farming’s lifestyle, particularly in the area of wages, hours and work environments. Keeping up with some recent requirements has caused some farmers and farm managers to invest in additional personnel, services and systems just to avoid inadvertent violation of one or more of the newest restrictions.

But even legislative power is not likely to overcome the diversified strength and team spirit of California’s farm community. About a dozen years ago the farm community banded together to defeat legislation that would have restricted the use of so many essential agricultural chemicals and pesticides that crop production would have been severely restricted.

In the ‘60s and ’70s California famers were forced to unite to resist a cruel and selfish attempt to force farm workers into the bondage of an upstart labor union. The campaign culminated in 1976 in a political battle to defeat a union-sponsored manipulation identified as Proposition 14. With resolve and sound professional guidance farmers and their many friends defeated the measure soundly, a nearly two-to-one vote.

The “My Job . . . movement has no designated opposition. Nor does it have promotional and administrative structure. It is mostly dependent on a wide segment of Californians recognizing and admitting that agriculture plays a huge part in their lives. Shouldn’t take too much circumspection to arrive at that conclusion.

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