Member Spotlight: Steve Brazeel
Orange County, CA - September 17 - With deep-roots in agriculture spanning back to his youth, it was only natural that Steve Brazeel established himself as a leader in California’s mighty produce industry. His company SunTerra Produce, which he founded in 2000, partners with family farms, invests in crops, and builds relationships between farmers and U.S. grocery retailers.
Given California’s position as the nation’s leader in agriculture, it’s crucial to maintain as many business-friendly policies as possible. Leadership in Sacramento often offers challenges to the agriculture industry through restrictive rules and regulations. Water and labor issues present some of the deepest challenges, according to Brazeel.
“Agricultural producers have an active interest in legal immigration policy to help during harvest season,” explained Brazeel. “The frustration comes from not coming up with long-term solutions, but rather kicking the can down the road.”
Legal immigration is a necessity in the agricultural sector. To Brazeel and many of the growers, packers, and shippers that he works with, it’s important to have a government that actively promotes and supports respectful reform.
“The Trump administration was very pro-Agriculture, and it was refreshing to have a President talk about farmers as the backbone of the country,” said Brazeel on the overwhelming feeling of unity that the prior administration provided to his community.
Beyond proposing pro-legal immigration policy and reducing regulations, the past administration also supported the farming and agricultural industry the moment the pandemic hit. Brazeel noted the speed with which the Trump administration set up programs to help farmers who would otherwise have had to pour milk into their fields or devastate the livelihoods of their animals.
One major highlight was the Farmers to Families Program in which the USDA purchased food which would have otherwise gone to waste and shipped it to food banks. During this pandemic program, SunTerra delivered over 50,000,000 lbs of high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables to food banks in 10 states as well as the Navajo Nation.
Brazeel also noted Sacramento should work together with farmers to understand the challenges they face regarding sustainability and our environment, instead of heaping more regulations on an already heavily-regulated industry.
The advances in technology that the farms which SunTerra partners with for sustainability are designed to get every last benefit out of every drop of water, bit of soil, and grain of sand, according to Brazeel.
“Farmers are the original environmentalists. If we don’t take care of the land, it won't take care of us.”
With the vast majority of SunTerra’s business taking place in California, Brazeel emphasized the importance of addressing opportunities to store water, adopting conservation measures that make sense, and sticking to common sense policies allows their farmers to continue to be the best, most efficient in the world.
“We’re growing food to feed the world… that’s a pretty noble cause. Can you grow without water? No. But solutions are right in front of us and we just need to push through and fight for leaders to prioritize agriculture.” - Steve Brazeel