Ag at Large: California farmers accept political change

California’s farm community is hopeful that an emphasis on regulations will decline during the Donald Trump administration. 

Since the presidential election, several opinion pieces have appeared that offer a farmer view of the result. Not one has confined it to views that might be held only by farmers in California.

Into that vast abyss tumbles today’s Ag at Large, sustained by several direct expressions from farmer friends before the election, comments from them since, and a kind of compilation of attitudes formed from years of associating with and listening to them.

More than any other attitude and action by political operatives and decision makers, needless government regulations seem to be at the top of the list of gnawing irritants. This is partly since few of them seem necessary or helpful, but mostly because many of them appear to be steps toward outright control.

More than a few displays a severe lack of understanding of the situations on the ground that they seek to regulate.

California’s farm community is hopeful that an emphasis on regulations will decline during the Trump administration. Many hope such a decline will have a secondhand effect on state politicians who have seemed in recent administrations to outperform their federal counterparts in controlling minutia and loading government payrolls with inspection and direction personnel.

Sharing the concern of top importance is water for farming. Whether they grow horseradish in Tulelake, avocados in Fallbrook, or everything from rice to potatoes in the great valleys in the central state, dates in the Coachella Valley, vegetables in the Imperial Valley or flowers and lemons along the South-Central coast, farmers need water to irrigate their crops.

Changing administrations at the federal level is only part of the water issue. California farmers are represented by two senators allied with the previous administration, one of them new to the arena. Both are likely to have significant influence on governmental decisions regarding the distribution of water, construction of storage and transfer facilities, and the balance between environmental and agricultural uses.

No doubt, California’s U.S. senators will maintain strong relationships with elected legislators and state-level water policies, a connection that will and should influence their positions on water.

 Both of them have enjoyed strong support from environmentalists, and probably will give greater emphasis to some environmental concerns – delta smelt for example – than most farmers believe is rational.  Gaining enough support from them to bring about positive improvements in regard to the flow, storage, and distribution of water will require an administration-long commitment.

Trade with major countries of the world such as China, Japan, and the European community is a major concern for California farmers. Their products are basic in the decisions that are made by trade specialists from all sides.

Supplies, which are a major element in trade negotiations, are seldom controllable. Farmers believe that the new administration’s trade specialists will take that and other issues into consideration.

Although California farmers have depended on an abundance of foreign workers for decades, most tend to support a reasonable immigration policy that will prevent illegal entry and insist on respect for the border. 

The wishy-washy positions by the U.S. Congress in recent years have prevailed for too long in the minds of many California farmers. They hope the change in administration, the one-party alliance between the House, the Senate, and the President will lead to a strong but fair immigration policy   

As others, California’s farmers have a long list of issues that they hope will receive fair and just consideration by the new administration. Most of all they want is for California agriculture and their parts in it to prosper.

They want California’s proud farming empire to be recognized for its uniqueness and superiority, to be allowed to continue its sterling performance, and to be in step with solid American principles and progress.

(Note: The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the guest author, and are not necessarily shared or endorsed by Western Farm Press).                

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