Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talked about Central Valley farmers’ role in a climate-safe future, and about families stressed by food costs. During a Zoom call with Rep. Josh Harder and leaders in California agriculture, Vilsack discussed his department’s response to the current drought and the barriers to exports of dairy foods, nuts, citrus and other products.
Vilsack plugged the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill now before Congress, that should would improve roads, rail, ports and other modes of transportation, along with rural broadband and water supplies.
Citrus farmers in the Valley and Southern California contend with cheap imports, said Rayne Thompson, vice president for government relations and sustainability at Sunkist Growers. “We’re facing a reality for fruit and vegetable growers here in the United States that it’s cheaper to grow, pack and ship fruits and vegetables in the Southern Hemisphere versus here domestically,” she said.
Rep. Harder spoke about his own efforts to boost local food in school cafeterias. “It doesn’t make any sense for our kids to be eating fruits and vegetables that are grown in Mexico or China when we are in such an incredible agricultural heartland,” he said. The congressman also introduced a bill that would put about $2.5 billion over five years into climate change projects on farms.