Column: It is time to 'dewussify'

The man who gave us “Cotton Up” last fall now gives us “Dewussify.”

This is the latest term from cotton’s senior citizen cheerleader Earl Williams, president of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association. At the Central California Cotton Conference last fall, Williams said it was for the cotton industry time to “Cotton Up,” borrowing a theme from rodeo where cowboys say when the going gets rough, it’s time to Cowboy Up.

Williams is the E.F. Hutton of the ag speakers’ circuit. When the former farmer-ginner turned association executive speaks, folks want to listen. Williams has put passion back in the business of agriculture.

He is cotton’s junkyard dog. He is a fighter. He is no whiner; never has been; never will be.

There has been too much agricultural whining in the political arena, according to Williams. It’s time agriculture quits going to Sacramento or Washington, D.C., with hat in hand apologizing for producing food and fiber.

It’s time to “dewussify,” says Williams. Webster says a wuss is a weakling; a doormat. Farmers and ranchers are not wusses and its time they and the people that represent them quit acting like 75-pound, namby-pamby weakling, according to Williams.

Agriculture needs to get out front instead of bringing up the rear, said Williams in a pair of speeches recently at the Bayer CropScience Cotton Technology Seminar and the California Cotton Growers Association annual meeting.

Williams cited several areas where “Dewussification” is needed; creating political alliances with urban legislators; education of state legislators; in federal farm bill negotiation; trade negotiations and among others.

One of the biggest issues facing California business and agriculture today is the proposal by the governor to increase minimum wage by $1 per hour. On principle, agriculture would be expected to sign up first to oppose it and whine all the way until agriculture and others who would oppose the increase are defeated at the polls. Last thing the most over-regulated, over-taxed farmers in the nation need is to pay more for labor.

However, the minimum wage will be increased in California. Agriculture does not need to be in front of the train, whining and complaining while being flattened.

Williams says agriculture should support a minimum wage increase in California. Get on the train and maybe minimize the impact of a minimum wage increase by spreading it over a couple of years and making sure it is decoupled from an indexing system that likely will make the minimum wage go up faster in the future.

Williams said he does not know how agriculture evolved into a whiner and a wuss in Sacramento.

I do.

For too long whining has been the approach of California State Farm Bureau; whine long and loud enough and someone may feel sorry for you and maybe you’ll get tossed a political crumb.

The Agribusiness Presidents Council formed through the clients of agriculture’s most effective Sacramento lobbyist George Soares has changed all that and proved it not only with the passage of the tractor tax relief bill but keeping the tax relief in place since battling efforts to repeal it. California cotton ginners and growers are members of that council.

Farming today is not for the faint of heart, as Williams points out. There are no wusses farming the fields, orchards and vineyards of California’s No. 1 industry.

Therefore there should be no wusses lobbying for agriculture or talking to consumers and legislators about the importance of food and fiber in this nation.

It’s time to “Dewussify.”

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