A wide ranging agricultural alliance representing wine grape growers, cattlemen and wool growers, dairymen and wineries has been formed to fight the Sonoma County anti-GMO initiative on the November ballot in that county.

The Family Farmers Alliance, sponsored by Sonoma County Farm Bureau, has already begun radio and sign campaigns to educate voters about the biotechnology and the impact a GMO ban could have on Sonoma County.

The message is simple; Sonoma County farmers, ranchers and grape growers are united against the GMO ban, according to Sonoma County Farm Bureau executive director Lex McCorvey.

“Despite what the proponents say about the ban — the GMO initiative will hurt family farmers and cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year,” said McCorvey.

The farming and ranching groups and organizations united against the GMO ban under the newly-formed alliance are Sonoma County Farm Bureau, United Wine Growers of Sonoma County, Sonoma County Grape Growers Association, Western United Dairymen, Sonoma-Marin Cattlemen Association, Sonoma-Marin Cattlewomen Association, Sonoma County Wool Growers, California Women for Agriculture, Sonoma County Wineries Association, North Bay Dairy Women and California Farm Bureau Federation.

And the list continues to grow, added McCorvey.

“It is important that Sonoma County voters understand that the vast number of local farmers and related associations are opposing this ban. Nearly every major association that represents Sonoma County farmers, ranchers and growers is part of this coalition. This should be a clear sign as to how Sonoma County's ag community feels about this initiative,” said McCorvey.

The most common reasons for the groups oppose the ban are:

  • Putting local family farmers at a competitive disadvantage to other regions.

  • The millions of dollars it will cost Sonoma County taxpayers.

  • The fact that the GMO ban will disallow new tools that can reduce pesticide, herbicide and fossil fuel and water use.

‘Devastate’ farmers

“If this initiative passes, it will devastate local family farmers and ranchers and be a major burden on taxpayers,” said McCorvey.

The Sonoma County initiative will be a pivotal one for the anti-GMO movement in California since it represents the first GMO-ban initiative in a county with a very large urban population and a significant agricultural industry.

It will be the sixth county initiative in the state to attempt to ban biotechnology. So far agriculture has won 3 of the 5 ballot initiatives, with big victories turning back attempts to ban biotechnology last fall in Butte, San Luis Obispo and Humboldt counties. The radical anti-GMO element in the state has won in Mendocino and Marin.

There was basically no opposition to the Marin initiative because there is no agriculture in the county. The only seriously contested initiative the anti-biotechnology group has won was in Mendocino County.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com