Chatting with Rayne Pegg, manager of the national affairs and research division of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
11:01 a.m. Rayne Pegg: It is wonderful being back in California. It was a great experience being in DC but it is always nice to be home, close to family and back at the Farm Bureau. Who can complain when you live in California?
11:02 a.m. Karst: What made you want to go back to the California Farm Bureau?
11:02 a.m. Pegg: I’ve always enjoyed representing farmers and working with farmers. The state is going through a number of challenges. My experience both at the state and federal levels helps in addressing those challenges. Our California Department of Agriculture is taking a lot of budget cuts and is looking at how they can do things differently. So my experience at the federal level helps in looking at those and thinking of new ways to address some of our old problems. I enjoy that.
11:04 a.m. Karst: What are the top two or three issues you are dealing with in California right now?
11:05 a.m. Pegg: With the governor’s current budget proposal that will equal a $31 million cut to the California Department of Food and Agriculture over the course of two years, the Farm Bureau along with some other farmer representative groups have been sitting down with the department and saying, ‘How can the department maintain strong programs for protecting against pest and diseases with few dollars?’ That’s a big challenge but I think it is actually a good question because it forces you to look at (whether) we need to do things like we have always done them. Can the pest and disease prevention programs function better or function differently? Do we need to make better investments in other areas for the long term? I like looking for answers to those questions, and that’s probably the biggest (issue) we are facing.
Immigration reform is another major issue. A lot of growers right now are really feeling the impact of not having an immigration program that works. And so we are really working with Congress, pushing Congress that something needs to be done this year, regardless whether or not it is an election year. They need to focus on this issue; it is not just impacting California growers, it is impacting growers in Arizona, the Northeast, everywhere. One solution is not it. Just fixing H-2A is a component of it but is not the solution that will work for everyone.