In an exit interview at the Agri-Pulse Food & Ag Issues Summit on Tuesday, state Senator Steven Glazer of Orinda did not mince words with his frustrations about his party. The moderate Democrat pressed his colleagues to think beyond party lines on bills and challenged farmers to get more engaged in state politics. 

Reflecting on nearly a decade in the Legislature, Glazer was proud to list the many committees he has chaired—but not to tout his stature.

“The reason I've had so many is because I didn't always go along with my party,” he said. “So then they cut off your head, they cut off your chairmanship.”

He stood out among Democrats in voting against measures on card check, agricultural overtime, expanding citizen lawsuits and banning rodenticides. He noticed a “knee-jerk reaction” from colleagues who voted along party lines without question.

“They may hear stories about farmworkers and how they're treated but not see the great examples of them being treated incredibly well—with benefits in different places,” he told Agri-Pulse Publisher Sara Wyant. He lamented, “It's just a labor union fight.”

In his waning months in office before his term ends, Glazer hopes to plant a flag in the Senate to show colleagues they can “make good choices for the right reasons, not for political reasons” and to assure them they would not be alone in choosing to vote independently.

Glazer also shared frustration with serving on the Agriculture Committee and seeing critical water, labor and pesticide bills bypass it.

“It was not a committee that was a consequential committee,” he said. “That's why I only served on it for a year or two.”

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He urged farmers to bring legislators to their fields to “feel and taste and smell your industry” and build a basis enabling them “to get out of their political frame.” He pushed them to go further than engaging with current lawmakers and to visit candidates running in urban districts.

Without those connections, agriculture will remain at the bottom for influence, he warned, describing California’s farmers and ranchers as jaded by Sacramento’s politics and reluctant to get involved.

“If you want to stay isolated on your ranch or your farm, don't expect things to change,” he said. “[Farmers] are great advocates if they're engaged, but it's very hard to get them out of their daily life.”

He saluted the California Farm Bureau, the Western Growers Association, the Agricultural Council of California and others for their engagement, but said unions and other interest groups would fill the conference ballroom twice over with the number of advocates they have visiting the Capitol every day.

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