Ahead of the curve

Jun 8, 2012
by WLJ

The recent Western Livestock Journal (WLJ) California Central Coast Tour was a fun-filled seven days as we toured some of California’s “best country.” If you have never been to the central coast of California, you really owe it to yourself to go and see it. The weather is mild, the ground will grow anything, and the people are great. Our WLJ Tours draw from a wide area and although most folks in agriculture are aware of and have to deal with government agencies in one form or another, they are always astounded by the heap of rules and regulations that agriculture has to contend with, and this year’s tour brought emphasis to that fact.


The one recurring theme that we heard over and over again from our tour hosts was regulation. Government agencies are in the hip pocket of every man, women and child that has anything to do with our industry and now the Environmental Protection Agency is using drones to fly over and monitor livestock feedlots in Nebraska and Iowa. If that isn’t a prime example of “big brother” overstepping, I don’t what know what would qualify.

The amount of government regulation and oversight is astounding.

We do, of course, need some oversight when it comes to the food production chain. That is just good common sense and it adds to the credibility of agriculture, but when that oversight becomes so burdensome that it interferes with production and stifles innovation, it is a nuisance.

The other recurring themes we heard throughout the tour were property rights and water. How do you do business when confronted with this onslaught of regulation being generated by, for the most part, unelected bureaucrats? Ask any of our tour hosts and they will tell you it is not easy, but they are educated on the subjects and they are involved.

As an industry, we have been reactors, but our tour hosts were, without exception, proactive, staying ahead of the curve and addressing the concerns before they come under the scrutiny of the regulators.

At Bengard Produce, we learned how they have been proactive with the issue of traceability and how the government is putting meters on private wells. At Hearst’s San Simeon Ranch, we saw dramatic evidence of the benefits that cattle grazing will do for land as the grazed land was clean of noxious weeds, but the ground on the other side of the highway that was not grazed was full of them. At Flag Is Up Farms, Monty Roberts has a manure composting venture that puts them ahead of the game. At Harris Feedlot, we saw numerous examples of how this highly visible firm meets challenges head on with practical management practices that beat the critics to the punch. At Grimmius Cattle Co., their calf nursery was immaculate and the calves receive individual attention by highly trained employees.

Nancy Crawford-Hall, San Lucas Ranch, is a strong and proven advocate of property rights and demonstrated her breadth of knowledge and commitment to the future of agriculture. She is a sterling example of how all of our tour hosts spoke with such knowledge, using purposeful language to explain their positions on the various issues facing their operations. In addition, Mitt French, San Benito Cattle Co., and Pam Doiron, El Rancho Espanol de Cuyama, also demonstrated keen knowledge and understanding of the real world problems that they each face every day and how, with the use of sound practical management techniques, they are able to keep ahead of the flood of regulations and rules that bombard them.

The question that needs to be asked is, are all these rules and regulations necessary and practical. And the obvious answer is no. But with that said, the regs are there and are a part of everyday life. So to survive and stay in business, it is necessary to be informed, educated and involved. There is a reason why we call our WLJ Tours ranch study tours and that is because there is so much to learn and take home. Hopefully, each guest uses what they learned to help manage their operation, and stay ahead of the game. Our tour hosts are prime examples of how to meet the challenges and succeed. We are so proud of them and are thankful to them for allowing our group to be a part of their operations for a day. — JERRY YORK