California ag coalition's tax relief victory adds to muscle

He's a mixture of Elmer Gantry and John Wayne. Sacramento, Calif., lobbyist/lawyer and Hanford dairyman George Soares lacks only a tattered gospel meeting tent and a white steed as he goes around the state preaching the message of “GET WITH IT OR GET OUT OF THE WAY!”

Soares mesmerized a crowd of 450 recently at the annual Fresno Agribusiness Management Conference with his evangelical message for agriculture to get its collective act together; quit compromising, and stop thinking it's going to lose every political battle it engages.

Yes, economic hardships have never been greater on the farm. Yes, agriculture has been traded away at the global trade negotiating tables. Yes, California is liberal and getting more so each day. Yes, California agriculture is loosing its water.

“We have got to stop this nonsense. You cannot win if you think you are going to lose. We must identify the issues critical to us; be right on the issues and go for the win,” Soares said.

Soares law firm, Kahn, Soares and Conway, marshaled the 35 organizations it represents and not only stopped the losing but won — big time. the $100 million in tax relief signed into law earlier this year by a governor who at one time was Jerry Brown's chief of staff. One of the swing votes to win passage of the tax package came from a Latino assemblyman/labor leader from downtown Los Angels.

Don't tell Kings County boy George Soares he cannot win.

Yet, unbelievably, some in agriculture have told Soares that the tax relief package is “no big deal” and will only be short-lived before the legislature takes it away.

Soares is perplexed by such talk. “Why would anyone talk negative about a $100 million permanent tax relief package. The reason may be that they had nothing to do with it,” he said.

As for the legislature taking it away, Soares responds, “Not without a fight, pilgrim!”

The ag coalition Soares put together to win the tax relief package is stronger than ever. You want PAC money from agriculture, come to the “Breakfast Club?” No more standing in line at some reception to get 30 seconds of a politician's time.

Now state legislators are invited to the Breakfast Club where representatives of the groups Soares represents have an hour and a half chat on the issues. It begins at 7:30 a.m. and not one invitee has been late yet.

Want to get a reading on issues important to agriculture and consumers side, call the Agribusiness Presidents Council, a coalition of leaders of farm organizations, processors, ag suppliers as well as the California Grocers Association representing 8,000 grocery stores and the California Restaurant Association representing 20,000 restaurants.

Want straight answers; give the council a call? Want to talk turkey about policy rather than politics, let's sit down and see how we can help each other?

Agriculture needs leadership and talent as never before if it wants to continue winning. Soares said it is time to evaluate the state's agricultural leadership and get rid of some people. It's not personal. It's about survival of California agriculture.

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