Jerry Prieto, Jr.
Jerry Prieto, Jr. is an FCFB At-Large Director
In June 2008, Prieto retired as Fresno County’s Agricultural Commissioner/ Sealer of Weights and Measures, serving not only the farmers and ranchers of Fresno County but also as a statewide leader among county agricultural commissioners. Throughout his career, Prieto has been widely respected for his unparalleled commitment to both Fresno County and California agriculture.
As Agricultural Commissioner, Prieto was responsible for promoting and regulating the nation’s number one agricultural producing county, protecting the county’s environment, and the public health, safety, and welfare. He has been a hands-on agricultural commissioner, finding a way to successfully enforce the myriad laws and regulations on the food and fiber industry, while at the same time earning the respect and admiration of those he regulated. It’s not easy to be a county agricultural commissioner. The tasks are many and the responsibilities are considerable – at the same time that budgets and staffing keep getting tighter and leaner.
Prieto’s success and popularity can be attributed to his being both a protector and an enforcer of agriculture in a proactive, hands-on and effective way. He started his career with the Fresno County Department of Agriculture in 1974, working on the regulatory and compliance side of the industry. When he left the department to work as the Fresno County Resources Manager at the County’s Public Works Department, he quickly learned what it was like to be “regulated” by water and air quality regulatory agencies – a learning experience he brought with him when he returned to the Agriculture Department in 1999 to become the County’s top regulator for the agricultural industry.
As Ag Commissioner, Prieto focused on helping farmers and ranchers come into compliance through outreach and education, as opposed to the heavy-hand of the regulatory process. The department’s Compliance Assessment Team conducts no-risk, on-farm audits to help identify what is needed to come under compliance with the various regulations. Follow-up inspections help ensure the outreach program has been successful. Fresno County farmers and ranchers appreciate Prieto’s pro-active, cooperative approach to ensuring compliance.
In pest and disease management, Prieto skillfully and pro-actively managed several issues throughout his career, such as Exotic Newcastle Disease (END), High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (AI) and the Peach Fruit Fly. In 2003 during the statewide END outbreak, Prieto took the lead and created the team to develop a strategic plan for handling END if it were to appear in the San Joaquin Valley. This plan was developed to address what needed to be done if found in the Valley, as well as to ensure everything possible was being done to prevent an outbreak of the disease. He was able to pull together and organize government and state agencies as well as industry leaders. A plan was developed that is in place today.
In addition, Prieto was the lead and original coordinator for the planning meetings for AI. Prieto organized meetings at the Agricultural Commissioner/U.C. Cooperative Extension offices, and conducted early planning sessions for what later became a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Grants and Training AI conference and workshop. The conference was held in Fresno in 2006 and federal, state and local representatives from across the state were present to learn, discuss and plan for the possibility of AI in the state.
Prieto also was lauded for his professionalism in managing the 2006 discovery of the Peach Fruit Fly and subsequent quarantine during harvest for many affected fruits and vegetables. His leadership with the agricultural community, the media and the public was responsible and effective. At his direction, his department quickly and proactively managed the situation and capably cooperated with the CDFA and USDA. The Peach Fruit Fly was a significant setback for some farmers in the County and had the potential to become a wide-spread concern for the majority of the County’s 350 crops. However, Prieto’s and Secretary A.G. Kawamura’s conscientious efforts and “up-front” management of the quarantine and eradication efforts kept a potential crisis at bay.
Prieto’s accomplishments are noted statewide as well. He served as the first chair of the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association’s Food Safety and Agriculture Security Committee, as well as leading that Association as president for two years. He also is viewed as a mentor and advisor for many agricultural commissioners throughout the state. Prieto is a former member of Governor Davis’ State Committee on Terrorism, and Western Weights and Measures Association Board of Directors. He served four years as chairman of the Fresno County Department Heads Council.
Prieto is a member of Fresno County Farm Bureau, serving on the board of directors. Throughout his career, Prieto has worked closely with the Farm Bureau in producer education, legislation and outreach efforts. He also serves on the Fresno County Council of Governments Farmland Conservation Steering Committee, and is chair of the Fresno County Council of Governments Farmland Preservation Advisory Committee and the Fresno County Land Conservation Committee.
Prieto’s ties to agriculture run deep, having grown up on a family farm in Corcoran and majoring in agriculture at California State University, Fresno. His passion for the industry is genuine and his commitment to helping ensure a viable agriculture in Fresno County is unparallel. Prieto has been recognized locally for his leadership and service to his community and agriculture. FCFB believes this statewide recognition is fitting and well deserved for Prieto’s long-time service as a pro-active industry regulator, educator, and passionate advocate for the betterment of Fresno County and California agriculture.