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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Joins Rep. Harder in Discussion with Central Valley Farmers & Ranchers

WASHINGTON — Today, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) hosted Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at a virtual event to discuss the state of agriculture in the Valley. The two were joined by dozens of local farmers and ranchers spanning the full range of Valley produce. At the meeting, Rep. Harder highlighted the six major issues he and Sec. Vilsack are working on to support farmers, ranchers, and the entire Valley economy:

  • Making it more affordable to run a farm or agribusiness in the Valley
  • Fixing immigration rules to solve the labor shortage and let folks get right with the law
  • Getting American ports back on track
  • Fighting against tax increases on family farms
  • Building the next generation of water infrastructure
  • Putting the Valley front and center in the next Farm Bill

Read Rep. Harder’s opening remarks below:

Thank you everyone for joining us today and thank you to Sec. Vilsack for giving us some of his incredibly valuable time. I know we only have 45 minutes or so and I want to make this a real conversation, so I’ll hop right into it. 

Five generations ago, my great-great-grandpa hopped on a wagon in search of gold but ended up finding something even better – a farm of his own right here in the Central Valley. He grew peaches in Manteca as ag exploded across the Valley and 150 years later here I am. Ag is the reason my family is here and it’s what makes our Valley great. 86% of the total output of Stanislaus County last year was because of our ag industry. We have more than 3,500 farms, and 9 in 10 of those is still family run. It’s not an exaggeration to say that our community relies on the folks in this room to keep it going.

But I know how hard the last year has been with the pandemic building on many of the existing challenges our ag community faces each day. Our total production last year was valued at $100 million less than what we produced in 2019. We still produced more than $1 billion worth of almonds, $730 million of milk, $342 million of chickens, $200 million of cattle, and so much more, but the pandemic hurt everybody.

Now, the challenge ahead is to build our economy back so it works even better for our ag industry. And to that end, I’m working on a few key issues that I’ll run through real quick:

First, I’m doing everything I can so our economic recovery actually supports our farmers and ranchers. I’ll let Sec. Vilsack dive more into what we’re doing there, but know that every time I get on a plane to go to Washington, I’m telling folks that it needs to be easier and more affordable to run a business farming and ranching in the Valley.

Second, I know so many folks on here are still dealing with the labor shortage, so I’m working to finally fix our immigration system so both you guys and our workers can get right with the law. I voted to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act that will help your workers access a pathway to citizenship and get you access to the workers you need and I’m pushing the Senate to finally pass the bill into law.

Third, I’m working to expand access to new foreign markets and maintain the markets we already have. I know that the ports right here in California have been absolutely disasters recently and it breaks my heart to see shipping crates leaving our shores without Valley products actually inside of them. So we’re working alongside the administration to get the port situation under control and make sure you all can sell to anyone anywhere you need.

Fourth, I’m fighting against tax increases for our family farmers that makes it harder for them to make living and continue farming. And I know not all my colleagues agree with me and that’s okay by me. That’s why I’ve been pushing the Biden Administration on this and will continue to do so.

Fifth, I’m doing everything I can to build the water infrastructure we need to get through this drought and be better prepared for the next one. We’ve got a historic $65 million heading home to Del Puerto and Los Vaqueros already, and we’re looking at the biggest federal water investment since the Hoover Dam if we get this infrastructure bill across the finish line.

And finally – I already have my sights set on the next Farm Bill when it happens in 2023. We need to make sure that Congress and USDA hears the concerns of Valley producers and that we’re supported in the bill. That includes specialty crops and our dairy folks. I’ll work on the Congress piece, and I’ll let my friend the secretary work on his side at USDA.

So now I’ll turn it over to Sec. Vilsack. Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for being here and for hearing directly from the Valley.

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