Anyone who eats food should care about our farmers. But not enough do. People in Washington can’t see beyond their dinner plate and have no idea where their food comes from. Our farmers deserve respect and support from everyone – especially our elected officials.
I fought to serve on the Agriculture Committee in Congress because farming is the lifeblood of our local economy here in the Valley. It is also a key part of who we are – and it has been ever since my great-great-grandfather came to Manteca to farm peaches in the 1850s.
My job is to be a megaphone for our valley farmers’ concerns and a bulldog for their interests. Not enough is getting done out there in Washington, but I’m proud to have notched several important accomplishments on behalf of the men and women who grow food to feed America
You can’t talk about agriculture in California without talking about water. Everyone knows we just came off the worst drought in the state’s history – and with a record-low rainfall for most of California in February, it is more important than ever that we grow and secure our water supply. Enough with the fighting, we need real results. That’s why the very first bill I introduced was a bipartisan solution that is already gaining traction in Congress - even in the midst of the partisan chaos in D.C. The SAVE Water Resources Act would make key investments in our water infrastructure and support important scientific advancements that will help our farmers have the water they need to do their jobs.
My bill would increase water storage here in the valley and help farmers prepare for the stringent demands in the state’s groundwater management law. It would also invest millions of dollars in our aging water infrastructure to help us prepare for droughts. Finally, it would provide incentives for the development of private-sector technology to cut evaporation in our reservoirs and help Southern California develop desalination technology so they don’t have to steal our water.
My bill has support from local elected officials of both parties. And we even had the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau celebrating the bill’s announcement – next to representatives from the Sierra Club. We focused on projects and policies that will help us move forward without all the fighting.
It also names four projects here in the valley and statewide that support our water supply, the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir, the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program, Sites Reservoir, and Los Vaqueros. It has already received a hearing and has broad bipartisan support. I am proud we’ve worked to bring the first new federal funding to our area for a water storage project in 50 years. We got $14 million in the federal budget for the four projects in my bill. Combined, they will increase our water storage capacity by about two million acre-feet. That’s how much storage we’re short.
Droughts aren’t the only threat to our water infrastructure. Some farmers have noticed a furry invader who threatens our levies and canals – the nutria – a giant swamp rat from South America. Nutria were first spotted in 2017 and since then nearly 100,000 have been removed from an area between the Delta and Merced County.
These things are a menace. They threaten our water infrastructure but can also eat the roots of almond trees and destroy our native wetlands. I worked with Louisiana Republican Garret Graves to pass a bipartisan bill that will provide the federal support California farmers need to get rid of these pests. The program we’re bringing back worked wonders for Maryland – and we hope it can do the same for our farmers in California.
But water infrastructure (and the critters threatening it) aren’t the only concern for our farmers. I also hear from people concerned about trade. I was proud to support the bipartisan United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) last year. When some people balked at the deal, I pushed for it to be brought up for a vote. My community needed it, plain and simple. The agreement will give valley farmers access and certainty when it comes to selling their products to our trade partners to the north and south. This bipartisan deal also protects American workers from having their jobs shipped overseas. It should be the template for how we do all of our other trade deals moving forward. Next, we’re focused on trade deals with China and India especially.
The other major issue I hear about is access to labor – which is why I supported the passage of the first bipartisan immigration bill the House of Representatives has passed in decades. The bill would give our farmers the guaranteed source of farm labor they need to work the fields. I heard way too often about dairy farms that were struggling because they didn’t have the labor they needed. This bill would fix that.
My mission in Washington is to work with folks on both sides of the aisle to get things done. And it’s working. I also want to hear your ideas for how we can improve federal policy to help your business. And my office is always here to help if you’re having an issue with the USDA or any other federal agency. Give me a call in Modesto at 209-579-5458 if you need help.
Thank you to all our farmers for feeding our country. We couldn’t do anything else without your efforts.
Josh Harder represents the 10th District of California in the United States House of Representatives.