TALL Program Experiences California Agriculture

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By: Caitlin Powers

Class XIII of the Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership program experienced California agriculture during their trip on October 14-18, 2013.

The TALL program, an initiative of the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service, enhances the leadership skills of men and women from every sector of agriculture and all over Texas. The two-year program is practical and action-oriented in which participants meet eight times for sessions or seminars. The trip to California would be the sixth session for class XIII.

“I feel like we saw and heard a month’s worth of California ag production and issues in less than a week,” TALL program member and the National Sorghum Producers External Affairs director Lindsay Kennedy said.

While in California participants traveled all over the state, starting in Sacramento, Calif. and ending in Clovis, Calif. Kennedy said they saw everything from lettuce harvest in the San Joaquin Valley, to oranges packaged for shipment to grocery stores, and acres and acres of almond trees and grapes.

“I really enjoyed seeing the production of crops that we don’t typically see in  West Texas, like almonds, Romaine lettuce and tomatoes,” Kennedy said.

The group visited and toured various operations including a Dole Fresh Vegetables Value-Added Plant, Scheid Vineyards, Inc. and a processor of diced and paste tomatoes, Ingomar Packing Company.

Numerous speakers addressed the group about the challenges and issues facing California agriculturalists, including representatives from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Cattleman Association, California Citrus Mutual and California Farm Water Coalition.

“We spent a lot of time discussing California’s complex water structure and issues with experts from the local water authorizes and districts,” Kennedy said.

Visiting California gave the group a great perspective from another large agricultural state, Kennedy said. California possesses a large diversity of crop production, large-scale livestock production and it is rich with natural resources much like Texas.

“Our trip to California was almost like looking into a crystal ball and seeing what Texas could potentially be facing in 10, 15 or 20 years down the road,” Kennedy said.

A tremendous challenge presented to California agriculture is the dramatic impact of the state’s political and cultural views of urban areas on state regulations. The urban areas in Texas are growing rapidly, and Kennedy said with that, a stronger emphasis is needed for rural representation and leadership.

The TALL program’s mission is to create a cadre of Texas leaders to help ensure effective understanding and encourage positive action on key issues, theories, policy and economics that will advance the agricultural industry. Experiencing California agriculture through this session is a way the program is achieving this mission.

“Whether you’re looking at water, regulations, immigration or labor, Texas can learn many lessons from what we saw in California,” Kennedy said.

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