Solano & Yolo Counties Joint Economic Summit

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                         Joint Economic Summit Logo

The County of Solano in partnership with the County of Yolo, the University of California, Davis and the Solano Economic Development Corporation planned and conducted the Solano and Yolo Counties Joint Economic Summit on November 16, 2011 at the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center on the UC Davis campus.

The objective of the Solano and Yolo Counties Joint Economic Summit was to use engage the key stakeholders – farmers, processors, bankers, government and academia – in a discussion leading to strategic action plans that would exploit the opportunities identified in the study and reduce the barriers to expanding the food chain cluster.  Approximately 130 people participated in the all-day event.

Throughout the summit information on research, economic and business development projects and programs were presented to help participants envision what opportunities for adding value to agriculture could look like. The morning session included a presentation on the food chain cluster study by Doug Henton of Collaborative Economics, a summary of the Solano and Yolo counties Agriculture Futures reports by Dan Sumner of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center and an update on the Dixon Ridge Agricultural Region and the Northeast Dixon Agricultural Supporting Limited Industrial Area by Jim Louie from Solano County Resource Management. The keynote speaker at lunch was Glenda Humiston, the State Director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.  The afternoon featured a case study on the seed industry by François Korn from Seed Central and Chris Zanobini from the California Seed Association and a case study on aggregation hubs Gail Feenstra from the Agricultural Sustainability Institute and Danielle Boulé from the UC Davis Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

Interspersed in between presentations participants engaged in two facilitated interactive sessions to identify and come to consensus on key barriers and underlying contradictions inherent in adding value to agriculture and the food chain cluster in Solano and Yolo counties.  In addition, they developed a series of actions and strategies to overcome the identified barriers.  These strategies have been aligned into three strategic directions: Promoting our Strengths, Developing Our Product and Building Public/Private Partnering.

The outcome of the event was a commitment to work on the three strategic directions.  The following outlines some of the projects that County staff in Solano and Yolo counties, in partnership with the various stakeholders, will be working on to move these strategic areas forward:

Promoting Our Strengths

  • The Joint Economic Summit was video-taped so it could be compiled into a production that can be aired on local cable channels.

  • California State Director Glenda Humiston presented a very compelling business case for expanding the agriculture sector.  The Solano EDC will be working with Ms. Humiston to find an opportunity for her to convey a similar presentation at an upcoming membership breakfast.

  • Yolo County will be initiating an updated of its Agricultural Preservation Policy in 2012.

  • Solano County will continue its strategic planning process for the Dixon Ridge Agricultural Region and the Northeast Dixon Agricultural Supporting Limited Industrial Area.

Developing Our Products

  • The facilitated discussion created a series of suggestions that focused on how the region could develop its assets, invest in best practices and solve identified gaps.  The issues raised were consistent with past engagement activities during the Ag Futures studies and the general plan updates in the two counties.  There was not sufficient time in the day to fully prioritize the concepts. The project for this area is to develop a survey that affirms the gaps and prioritizes the concepts.  The survey will be disseminated to a broad audience beyond those who were able to attend the summit.

Building Public / Private Partnering

  • One of the most definitive needs identified at the summit was the establishment of an ombudsman program to assist agriculture entrepreneurs as they move from the idea stage to practical business plans.  The commitment was for this program to be funded as public-private investment.  The Agricultural Commissioners in Yolo and Solano counties are taking the lead to working with the private sector interests to develop the program.  It is anticipated funding for the program will be included in the FY2012/13 budget.

Updates Since the Joint Economic Summit

  • Several economic priorities for agriculture were identified at the Joint Economic Summit.  Click here for a summary of those priorities, the actions taken toward achieving them, and future efforts in the works.
  • The Farmbudsman Program Committee selected Michelle Stephens as the farmbudsman to serve Solano and Yolo counties, starting April 15, 2013.  The farmbudsman will be based out of the Small Business Development Center located at 360 Campus Lane, Suite 102 in Fairfield.  She can be reached at (530) 863-9073.
  • The Boards of Supervisors in Solano and Yolo counties and the Solano Community College Board of Trustees adopted in January 2013 a joint operating agreement to fund and manage a farmbudsman program that serves Solano and Yolo counties.  Operating Agreement.
  • The California Financial Opportunities Roundtable (CalFOR), a group of more than 90 experts and activists representing large banks, small financial institutions, wealth advisors, fund managers, the business community and economic development agencies, as well as local, state and federal agencies released their guidebook Access to Capital on Aug. 30, 2012.  This document offers a one-stop-shop resource for anyone seeking capital, which was an area of need identified at the Joint Economic Summit. Report.
  • A case study on the former Solano County agriculture ombudsman program, along with a survey of Joint Econonomic Summit participants and area farmers, explored how to evlaute a proposed farmbudsman program to serve Solano and Yolo counties. The report was released at a Farmbudsman Forum on June 21, 2012 to further define the position and explore potential private sector funding. Report.
  • Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan conducts a White House Business Roundtable: Jobs and Economic Development from the Farm/Food Value Chain on May 17, 2012 with leaders from Solano and Yolo counties in agriculture, business, education and government. Presentation.

Joint Economic Summit Documents and Presentations

Below are some of the reports that feed into the discussions at the Joint Economic Summit.

The Food Chain Cluster: Integrating the Food Chain in Solano & Yolo Counties to Create Economic Opportunities and Jobs (May 2011)

The California Seed Industry: A Measure of Economic Activity and Contribution to the California Agriculture (September 2009)

Context Matters: Visioning a Food Hub in Yolo and Solano Counties (June 2011)

The Solano Agricultural Futures Project (2007)

Sharpening the Focus of Yolo County Land Use Policy (October 2009)

Yolo County: 2030 Countywide General Plan (2009)

Solano County General Plan (2008)