CDFA secretary Karen Ross and public relations executive Kerry Tucker suggested in an op-ed published yesterday in AgAlert that the best way to meet future international opportunities and challenges in agriculture is with a collaborative and harmonious industry.
The article included information about anticipated global demographic changes from the UC Agricultural Issues Center. According to the AIC, China will more than triple its per capita income by 2030, from $2,802 to $10,718. This kind of wealth tends to result in first-step dietary adjustments that include more consumption of meat, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and nuts.
India's numbers start smaller, from $965 per capita last year to $3,309 in 2030, but its population will continue to grow by 1 percent per year long after China's population peaks in about 2030, according to Daniel Sumner, director of the AIC. As a result, India's population will stay young and energetic for years to come, with a growth rate that could soon overtake China.
Because California farmers and ranchers are located in one of only five regions on earth capable of large-scale production of Mediterranean specialty crops, they are well positioned to prosper in the changing international marketplace.
However, say Ross and Tucker, tension between proponents of large- and small-scale production can get in the way of the cooperation required to meet the food demands of the future.
"Regardless of size or farming practices, we need a continuum of farms and ranches operating as productively as possible while protecting our precious natural resources and the environment. There is truly a place for all in California agriculture," they said.
The newly appointed California secretary of agriculture, Karen Ross, outlined her department's California Ag Vision 2030 during a presentation at Fresno State University Sunday. The Business Journal announced the event, but apparently no media outlets attended.
The event was part of Fresno State's 100 year anniversary celebration, which culminates with a Centennial Gala on May 14.
Two years in the making, the CDFA Ag Vision 2030 defines 12 strategies for California's agriculture and food sector. Ross said the Ag Vision is a collaborative effort that involved a diverse group of stakeholders who focused on what they could agree on, rather than fighting about what they can't.
"When you read this, you have to be optimistic about California agriculture," she said.
Ross took the helm at CDFA just as the department faces a $15 million reduction in general fund support this year, a $32 million cut for its fair system and another $15 million funding cut for next year.
Even in the face of these budget cuts, Ross said she is determined CDFA will continue to engage in new and positive programs. That challenge, Ross said, will take ingenuity. She invoked a famous admonition from Winston Churchill, which is also quoted in the Ag Vision 2030: "Gentlemen [and ladies], we have run out of money. Now we have to think."
During the Q&A session, CSUF soil scientist Sharon Benes expressed concern about UC Cooperative Extension, saying UCCE programs have "taken more than their share of the (budget) hit." She said UCCE has played a critical role in creating California's thriving agricultural industry and budget cuts are reducing intellectual capacity.
In responding, Ross said she is working with executives at UC and CSU to see where to fill in the gaps.
"We need to rethink regional deployment," Ross said. "We can't give up the specialists. But maybe you extend information in different ways. I always say, 'Extension is a verb, not a person.' Status quo is not an option anymore."
Gov. Brown's newly appointed secretary of agriculture, Karen Ross, brings numerous University of California connections to her new office.
An article published yesterday in California Farmer magazine says Ross is a member of:
- The Center for Cooperatives at UC Davis
- The Dean's Advisory Committee for the College of Agriculture and Environmental Science at UC Davis
- The Program Advisory Committee for the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program
- The Board of Fellows & Visitors for Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis
Ross was designated ANR's delegate to the national Council for Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching in 2008, and served as a member of the UC President’s Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
In 2007, Ross received an "Award of Distinction" from the UC Davis CAES.
"Karen is an excellent sounding board for what issues are on the minds of growers and the kinds of research and education needs that would most impact their efforts to stay competitive in what has become a global wine business,” the award announcement quoted Jim Wolpert, former chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology. “The department wanted to recognize her for her leadership both in California and nationally."
Most recently Ross, the former president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, has served as U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's chief of staff. Some lament the fact that Ross's California connection will be lost at the federal level and believe the fallout could be aggravated by other California power losses, according to an article in the Fresno Bee.
But state ag leaders support the appointment, said the California Farmer article.
"Karen Ross is well-suited for the role of food and agriculture secretary. She has firsthand knowledge about the many challenges farmers and ranchers face each day, not just in California but throughout the nation," the story quotes Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau Federation president.
Rich Rominger, CDFA Secretary under then-Governor Brown from 1977 to 1982, said Gov. Brown selected the best person for the job.
"Karen Ross is the leader we need to address the critical issues of agriculture, water, clean energy development and climate change," Rominger is quoted.
Ross's appointment must be confirmed by the California State Senate.