Agriculture: Assemblyman Dahle hosts first Town Hall meeting in Nevada County
Special to The Union
During his first Town Hall meeting in Nevada County, First District Assemblyman Brian Dahle will focus on California agriculture and give residents a chance to give their input on everything from local food, farm regulations, water allocation and development threats.
The ag-inspired Town Hall meeting will be from 10 a.m. to noon Friday in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the Rood Center, 950 Maidu Ave.
The first hour will include a panel discussion with Dahle; Nevada County Supervisors Hank Weston and Nate Beason, Jamie Johansson, second vice president of the California Farm Bureau; and Melissa Ribley of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
During the second hour, the public will be allowed to chime in during an open mic-style setting with time for questions and answers.
“I’m a farmer. Ag is the No. 1 business in California,” Dahle said, a Republican passionate about natural resources like water and timber who was elected to the Assembly a year ago. He’s a third-generation farmer and business owner who served four terms as a Lassen County Supervisor.
Dahle says he cares about the environment, and one of his biggest concerns is the amount of regulations that governs the way a farmer does business.
“The regulatory environment is very difficult for farmers,” Dahle said.
Local organic farmer Mike Pasner of Indian Springs Farm agrees. Pasner is concerned about the way California treats its small family farms.
He was charged $120 by a sub watershed group representing Placer, Nevada, South Sutter and North Sacramento counties for toxic discharge from his organic farm that never occurred.
“People who violate the law should pay fines and support the enforcement agencies and testing, not law abiding overbilled family farmers,” Pasner said.
He also questions why his farm no longer receives a returned percentage of a fee he pays for being certified organic.
“This is not a planting subsidy or a market subsidy for not planting crops. This helps small farms afford a cleaner, healthier method of farming,” Pasner said.
Another local farmer and organizer of the Sustainable Food and Farm Conference, Eric Dickerson, says he is considering attending the Town Hall meeting to learn more about Dahle’s position on agriculture.
Dickerson would like to see lawmakers do more to support the vibrancy of small farms. He wonders if a goal for local food security and sustainability can be developed with a 15- to 25-year plan for reaching that goal.
“We should be fostering development of these kinds of businesses in our area. Not only for the food and sustainability benefits but also the employment and environmental benefits,” Dickerson said.
In June, Dahle brought a delegation of lawmakers to Nevada County for a tour of Empire Mine, Lake Combie and area forests to educate them about water, mining and timber issues. In October, he spoke at a Nevada County Tea Party Patriots General Membership meeting. This is his first Town Hall meeting.
With his wife, Megan, Brian Dahle purchased the family’s 2,000-acre farm first established by his grandfather in the 1940s. It’s there on the farm in Bieber, a small town of a little more than 300 people on the Pit River in Lassen County, that the Dahles are raising their three children.
For 20 years, Dahle has worked as a seed farmer, raising seed of cereal grain such as wheat, barley, oats and peas that he sells through his business, Big Valley Seed and Big Valley Nursery.
Dahle’s agricultural roots go back even further to the Tule Lake area, where his family first homesteaded a farm in the 1930s.
Non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) food sovereignty supported by community-based farmers is something on the mind of local chiropractor Pamela Disque Hall.
“Knowing I can trust the source of my food is personally highly important to me,” she said.
Disque Hall is involved with a regional group trying to establish a public bank that would offer loans to local farmers and ranchers. She questions Dahle’s views on buy-local movements and labeling laws.
“I don’t raise any GMO seeds,” Dahle said.
Though he recognizes that GMOs are an important issue to many these days, he says he doesn’t want Friday’s discussion to get mired in that topic.
“I don’t want to get too wrapped up in GMOs,” he said.
Dahle has served on the board of directors of Sierra Nevada Conservancy and was cheered on by locally based group The Sierra Fund, after winning last year’s election.
The California Farm Bureau Federation endorsed his campaign. The organization has more than 74,000 members statewide.
Dahle sits on a number of state committees at the state capitol including the Committee on Agriculture, Water Parks and Wildlife, a Select Committee on California’s Food Safety System and a Select Committee on Sustainable and Organic Agriculture.
In August, he heard from a number of California farmers, including Bryce Lundberg of Lundberg Family Farms and Thaddeus Barsotti, owner of Capay Organic, along with key federal and state regulators, during an informational hearing titled: “Truth in Labeling: How California Enforces Organic Standards.”
To Dahle, an onerous regulatory environment, development threats to prime agricultural lands and how water is allocated remain top issues for California ag.
“We’re paving over some of the best land in the world,” he said.
Contact Laura Brown at email@example.com or 530-913-3067.
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