Finally, valley's farmers get seat at USDA's table...Editorial
Unlike previous incarnations, this farm bill proposal is actually important to farmers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Anne Cannon, who spearheads Rep. Dennis Cardoza's team on ag issues, was particularly pleased with that: "For the USDA to specifically recognize us in such a fashion is hugely important." Cardoza is particularly well placed to have an impact. He is chairman of the subcommittee on fruits and vegetables and sits on subcommittees that deal with livestock and conservation. He also sits on the important Rules Committee, which sets the agenda for all of Congress. That makes him important to every other representative. Despite all the positives, this proposal could be in for a rough ride. Congress, not the USDA, writes legislation and already considerable resistance is developing. Ag issues split on regional lines rather than partisan, so it wasn't surprising when one Midwestern Republican senator greeted the proposal with a press release that said, essentially, "we'll see" about subsidy reductions.
Clearly, the trauma experienced by Big Wine, Big Cheeze, Big Milk and Big Cotton of not having their own USDA secretary from Modesto for a year and a half has unbalanced the mind of McClatchy-Modesto’s editorial staff. Modesto has produced two USDA secretaries in the last 20 years, Dick Lyng and Ann Veneman, and three state Department of Food and Agriculture secretaries, Lyng, Veneman, and Bill Lyons, Jr. The Modesto Assembly district has produced two Assembly Ag Committee chairmen in recent years, John Thurman and Dennis Cardoza.
The anxiety of agricultural commerce without a Modestan secretary of USDA may have popped big pumpkins in the north San Joaquin Valley.
It is true that a strong, bipartisan campaign including a strong showing by state and national environmental groups defeated Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, who might well have become the chairman of the House Ag Committee. But he and Cardoza formed the Pomboza, funded by developers, to try to gut the Endangered Species Act.
Meanwhile, Valley agriculture lost the enormous clout of chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield, who retired.
So, now Big Wine, Big Cheese, etc., are stuck with Cardoza, the senior Valley Democrat in the newly elected Democratic Congress. Cardoza has been appointed chairman of an agricultural subcommittee on specialty crops. We find nothing in his political career to indicate he is interested in anything but the speculative real estate value of the land on which these fruits, nuts and vegetables are being grown. I have never met a farmer or rancher in the 18th congressional district who had confidence in Cardoza’s grasp of agricultural issues. Perhaps his agricultural “spearhead” knows the answers.