Arizona Farm Bureau’s farm and ranch leaders look forward to hosting Senate President  Fann, Senate Minority Leader Bradley, House Speaker Bowers and House Minority Leader Fernandez and the rest of Arizona’s legislators at this year’s AgFest tomorrow (January 23, 2019). Our 14 active Farm Bureau counties will feature their agriculture at various booths at the Arizona Department of Agriculture. The event begins at 5:30 pm and Arizona Farm Bureau’s president, Stefanie Smallhouse, will kick things off. 

In the meantime, we asked the Legislative leaders from both parties to share their plans for the New Year and the legislative session. Below are their comments.

By Karen Fann (R-Dist 1)

Senate President

Growing up in rural Arizona and being the former owner of the Fann-M Ranch, I understand the daily challenges that are faced by many farm and ranch families across the state. Having also been the Mayor of two rural agricultural communities I understand the great difficulty in finding solutions to alleviate those daily challenges. As the future Senate President, I hope to bring together these experiences to push good legislation that will improve the lives of our farmers and ranchers. 

Water is everything and is extremely vital to our food security and economy. That is why one of the most important issues coming up next session is the Drought Contingency Plan. It will be my top priority to make sure our farmers and ranchers will have enough water resources in the future. I hope to encourage cooperation and innovative ideas in the Legislature so that we may all see real positive results for generations to come.

Another critical issue is the significant changes which have been made to the federal tax code. Passage of state tax conformity legislation is of critical importance to me and I hope we can spare the future frustration and confusion for our taxpayers by acting swiftly and cautiously to avoid any unintended consequences.

This state relies on smart, hardworking individuals. Providing a solid foundation in which to foster and grow our workforce is fundamental to our state and is an important issue to me. As a business owner, I am experiencing first hand our labor shortage problem here in Arizona.

Our manufactures, construction, distribution and agricultural sectors rely heavily on our systems of roads and bridges. Therefore, it will be important to maintain or improve our infrastructure so that we can remain competitive around the country.

I want to give our Agricultural community new ways to foster and grow. I know that with smart legislation now, Arizona can continue to thrive well into the future.

By David Bradley (D-Dist 10)

Senate Minority Leader

Thank you very much for the opportunity to communicate with you through this Farm Bureau publication.  The Democratic leadership team of the Arizona Senate looks forward to working with the ranchers and farmers of Arizona in the coming session.  Our caucus reflects the rich diversity that makes Arizona so great and each of us is keenly aware of how important a role all of you play in the lives of all Arizonans.  Please accept this brief missive as an open invitation to come and meet with your senators, regardless of district, at your convenience both before and during the legislative session.  Also, please invite us to come and visit you so that we can experience firsthand the challenges you face daily as you work to feed not only the people of this state but of the entire world.

I am looking forward to working with our Senate President, Karen Fann, and her caucus to ensure that the farmers and ranchers of Arizona receive all the support you need to be successful in the growing, raising, harvesting and the distribution of the products that are and have been the product of your hard labor and intelligence.  I consider all of you to be scientists who deal in the practical challenges that nature in all its wonder and complexity presents you daily.  The resources of the state, its universities, its pre-k through high school institutions, its infrastructure. i.e., transportation and water distribution systems must be at your service.

Collectively, our focus should be on our ever-growing state and the millions of people who will follow us in the years to come.  The challenges we face as we deal with this inevitable growth are only going to grow more complex over time.  It is imperative that the leadership in the legislature stays in sync with the farmers and ranchers of this state.  Literally, our lives depend upon it.  Let’s continue to work for all of Arizona together.

By Russell Bowers (R-Dist 25)

House Speaker

My younger brother, Steve, had taken two large canteens of water on the overnight hike with a friend. It was early summer, it would be hot, but the canteens were big, round and canvas covered to keep them cool. They were confident that they would get them in and out of the desert mountain range they wanted to explore. They hiked a few miles late that afternoon gradually using the supply from the first canteen and spent a great evening regaling each other with stories under the subtle magic of the desert mountains around them. The next morning, as he reached for the second canteen it too was empty…a small leak draining all the water into the ground during the night. The sun was up early as they began to walk out, but the temperature was up as well, and the young boys began to worry where he might find water to get them out. Steve spied a shallow cave in the shadowed wall of a cliff and they made their way up to it and began surveying the surrounding desert for signs of a spring or a change in the rock strata that might signal a water source. Young, hot and afraid without seeing anything he prayed for help.

Sitting under the decreasing shade he noticed doves flying up the small box canyon and disappearing, only to reappear after a time. Angling out into the sun for a better look he saw them fly right into a cliff, which intrigued him, and he followed the clue to the end of the canyon to find a sheer cliff with what appeared to be a slot canyon emptying out about a hundred feet up the face, with doves flying in and out. Climbing the side slope, he discovered a narrow ledge of rock across the face of the cliff to the base of the canyon, sometimes narrowing to a six-inch strip. He knew if he slipped – he would die and knowing that if he didn't find water it would bring the same result. He edged himself across and into the shadow of the canyon mouth, climbing up over boulders, and slippery walls, ultimately and desperately throwing his arm over a high dam of rock while trying to find a handhold and burying it in cool water. Grateful, he filled his canteen after a long drink and took it back to his companion, and they were able to get back to their car.

Later I retraced his description and found the canyon, the ledge and after struggling up a wall of stone inside found the large pool, entirely in shadow. I have gone many times since and there, in that shadowed, remote spot, is always water. In the desert, that is a treasure.

The intense work for the DCP is fraught with struggle. There are interests. There are legal challenges. There are conflicting demands. One of the biggest is trying to convince those that can order their legal limit but may not need it in any immediate time frame. That squeezes the available supply that could be used to help bring water to Pinal County Agriculture for a few more years. Such water right holders have power over life and the death of that crucial area of our states economic base. Others have plenty and are dealing to make it available. Some have water that is easier to bring into the Salt River Valley without the need for the waivers and permission. Desalinized water is an increasingly viable option which could establish stronger ties with our neighbors south. What I don't understand is why our state's leadership does not want to seek multiple water sources to contribute what they have to the needs of the urbanized core, but also for agriculture for very few years. Only one water provider seems to have the prime position. 

I call upon the Governor, my colleagues, and other leaders to develop multiple water partners now so that we will have surety into the future rather than the danger of fragility of an agreement with just one. Competition between sources NOW assures infrastructure development, experienced contracting between parties, and knowledgeable trust upon which to build into the future. We can do that now - preparing for broader and accessible water supply in our future.

I know what it is like to be very thirsty. Like my little brother years ago, I look above first and around for what I can do with so many others to make wise and long- term decisions that will keep life here for many years to come.

By Charlene Fernandez (D-Dist 4)

House Minority Leader

Arizona voters spoke with unprecedented clarity – and historic turnout -- in November. Their message? Arizonans want elected leaders who are willing to set aside partisan politics and work together to move our state forward.

After picking up four seats to shrink the Republican majority from 35 members to a razor-thin 31-29 margin, Democrats are ready to deliver on that mandate.

This Arizona House will feature the largest and most diverse team of Democrats in decades. We come from all walks of life and represent all corners of the state – from rural towns and tribal nations to our largest cities and most dynamic suburbs. Democrats bring an abundance of talent and multiple points of view to a suddenly larger table. We will not agree on everything. But when it comes to our schools, and addressing Arizona's most pressing needs, we are absolutely unified.

Our blueprint for Arizona includes:

·         A commitment to fully fund education. We must work with Republicans and the Governor to create a seamless and more effective public education system that supports and prepares all kids, regardless of zip code, for a 21st-century economy. That begins with restoring higher education funding and delivering the full pay raises promised to public school educators, including support staff.

·         Restoring trust. The Governor and Attorney General have finally acknowledged serious accountability and transparency problems with Arizona's charter school system. We will work with them to safeguard taxpayer money and end the self-dealing and conflicts of interest that have eroded the public's faith in state government.

·         Protecting our Democracy. We should be making voting easier in Arizona, not more difficult. We will work to ensure that our County Recorders and Secretary of State have the resources, equipment, and training they need to ensure voter access and build on the record turnout we experienced in 2018.

·         Addressing Arizona's drought. Agriculture is a $23 billion industry and the heart and soul of my hometown of Yuma. We must reach back to the bi-partisan tradition that delivered the landmark Groundwater Management Act to address our looming water crisis in a manner that treats stakeholders fairly and preserves vital industries like agriculture.

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