New Marin County Agriculture Commissioner Stefan Parnay aims to better balance consumer price scales


Stefan Parnay didn’t like weeds when he was little. Now an adult, he has power over them, as the agricultural commissioner of Marin County.

The Sonoma County native grew up on the outskirts of Sevastopol where his father – a school official and avid gardener himself – taught Parnay, 56, the treasures of growing Earth’s plants. Now in Windsor, he grows peppers and green vegetables in his own garden.

“He was pretty much the green thumb. I pulled some weeds, although it wasn’t as exciting as other things, ”he said.

But despite his distaste for weeding, getting into farming as a profession still appealed to Parnay.

After graduating in ornamental horticulture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Parnay worked in 1994 in the Sonoma County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures, where he worked for 16 years. He cut his teeth as a Senior Agricultural Program Assistant, and was promoted in 2004 to the rank of Deputy Chief Agriculture Commissioner.

In 2010, Parnay became Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture for Marin County. In 2020, he replaced longtime commissioner Stacy Carlsen, who retired after 25 years of service.

In his new role, Parnay faces a variety of issues, including the impacts of drought and climate change. But the most controversial in his region centers on raising cattle at Point Reyes National Seashore. The park has allowed the practice for decades, drawing fierce criticism from environmentalists.

“Livestock and agriculture have been around for hundreds of years,” he said in his support for the practice. “Cattle ranching represents 20% of our agriculture in Marin County. It is important. If there was no breeding, it would be devastating.

Animal production, which includes raising livestock and dairy products, brings in more than $ 20 million a year, the county’s crop report says.

Meanwhile, North Bay farmers face more regulations, drought issues, and learning ways to become more sustainable.

“It has become more and more difficult,” he said. “But it’s great to see most people’s acceptance. “

Eliminate price inequalities

Parnay has goals for his new job. He plans to put more authority and oversight into the responsibilities of the Weights and Measures division.

Weights and Measures is responsible for performing inspections related to consumer protection and handling complaints of unfair practices, up to the price a buyer pays for groceries at the store.

California’s Measurement Standards Division reported in 2019 that out of 1,891 items purchased in state testing, 423 transactions were overcharged at 223 stores. Many of the undercover transactions involved buyers from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds.

Beyond the “test” inspections, the department will also carry out reviews of price analyzes in stores. In the latest report, 245 out of 4,236 scans were overcharges, many of which involved buyers from disadvantaged households.

Reasons may include a language barrier, ignorance of a system in place to deal with these types of complaints, or a general reluctance to escalate issues.

“I think there may be a lack of knowledge of their rights,” Parnay said.

When it comes to weeds, which is on her county division wishlist, Parnay would also like to start an invasive weed control program that pairs resources like the UC Cooperative Extension with farmers trying to rid their soil of plants which take over. He listed the purple star thistle as a particular problem in the county.

“Weeding work needs to be done,” he said.

Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, manufacturing, biotechnology, energy, transportation, agriculture, and banking and finance. For 25 years, Susan worked for various publications, including the North County Times, now part of the Union Tribune in San Diego County, as well as the Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe News. She graduated from Fullerton College. Contact her at 530-545-8662 or [email protected]

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