Congressman Garamendi & Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Peterson Bring Together Rice Farmers, Duck Hunters & Other Community Leaders at Willows Freeform Discussion
WILLOWS , CA – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) today invited House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Val Dolcini, California State Executive Director of the United States Department of Agriculture, to join him in a freeform discussion with local rice farmers, duck hunters, conservationists, and agriculture industry leaders. Garamendi, recently appointed to the House Agriculture Committee, wanted to hear from his new constituents in the future 3rd Congressional District on their priorities for the farm bill and broader water policy moving forward.
“I want to thank Congressman Garamendi for inviting me to this event. It’s always good to hear from American farmers, hunters, and others who depend on smart agriculture and conservation policy,” said Congressman Collin Peterson, Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee. “I know how important California agriculture is to our nation’s economy and food security, and I will take what I heard today with me as I work on a good bipartisan farm bill.”
“Today we had a productive meeting, covering an array of issues important to the farmers and hunters in the new 3rd Congressional District,” said Congressman Garamendi, a Member of the House Agriculture Committee. “Ranking Member Peterson has been working on these issues for years, and I think I speak for everyone at today’s meeting when I say his expert perspective was very helpful and appreciated. I’m ready to go to Washington to make sure our region’s priorities are reflected in the farm bill.”
Congressman Peterson noted that the farm bill passed in a bipartisan fashion in the U.S. Senate and on the House Agriculture Committee. He noted that two major debates holding up final passage involve commodity pricing and food assistance, but he expressed hope that Republican leadership would bring the bill to a vote on the House floor soon.
At the meeting, some rice farmers expressed concern about widespread flooding in the region while noting that overall, despite their robust conservation efforts, water prices continue to rise even with decreased usage. Garamendi agrees with this concern and is the author of the SAFE Levee Act, which would help improve existing levees in rural areas, and he pledged to urge federal policymakers to provide further assistance for farmers engaging in water conservation projects.
Some noted that managed wetlands do not receive the same water discount as standard agriculture land, and Congressman Garamendi said he would encourage policymakers at the Public Utilities Commission and elsewhere to give managed wetlands the same off peak water rate that agriculture presently enjoys.
Many in the room were apprehensive over the proposal by Governor Jerry Brown to build two new peripheral tunnels at the expense of Northern California water rights holders. Garamendi noted that two million acre feet of water per day are pumped into the ocean. With investments that would cost far less than a new tunnel system, that water can be recycled and help alleviate water shortages statewide. Garamendi’s SAFE Levee Act would require a cost-benefit analysis of Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), which includes the peripheral tunnels, to develop a more robust understanding of the damage that would occur to the Delta, Sacramento River, and northern water sources.
Water storage is another policy that Garamendi is pursuing to address state water needs. Some at the meeting were concerned that the Sites reservoir and other water storage sites might run into obstacles with opposition from environmental groups, but Garamendi expressed optimism that Sites and most other water storage sites can be consensus projects with most environmental advocates on board.
California is the nation’s second largest producer of rice, concentrated in counties north of Sacramento, including Colusa, Sutter, and Yuba. Rice farming and waterfowl habitats are intimately linked, since the watery conditions necessary for rice are also perfect habitats for ducks and other birds.
Garamendi is a fourth generation cattle rancher and farmer who lives in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta community of Walnut Grove. The new 3rd Congressional District, which Garamendi will formally represent beginning January 3rd, includes all or portions of Colusa, Glenn, Lake, Sacramento, Solano, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba counties.