Reps. Baca and Nunes Urge Assistance for California's Citrus Growers
Concerned about the devastating impact of freezing temperatures on citrus growers in the Inland Empire, the Central Valley and throughout California, Rep. Joe Baca (D-Rialto) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) rallied support from the California congressional delegation on behalf of Governor Schwarzenegger's request for federal assistance.
The Governor's request comes after extremely low temperatures recently devastated crops throughout the state. Citrus growers alone have been exposed to $1 billion in losses. Demonstrating the extent of potential citrus losses, the entire state's Valencia crop was exposed to freezing temperatures. This exposure could virtually eliminate the 2007 harvest, devastating farmers.
In response, Rep. Baca and Rep. Nunes drafted a letter with the assistance of Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Atwater), asking the Bush Administration to speed federal support to the state's farmers, rural communities and unemployed workers. In a sign of significant bipartisan delegation unity, both Senators and an overwhelming majority of California Representatives urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Mike Johanns to immediately approve requests for federal disaster designations resulting from the freeze. They also called on the Secretary to use his discretionary authority to provide immediate assistance to farmers and unemployed farm workers impacted by the disaster.
"The severe weather has destroyed most of our state's citrus crop, strawberries, avocadoes and other produce, causing real hardship for hardworking farmers and laborers, small businesses and rural communities. And because California is our nation's leading agricultural producer, the effects will be felt across the country. We are urging the Secretary of Agriculture to take immediate action to provide federal assistance for our state," said Rep. Baca.
"I am pleased that so many of my colleagues - both Democrats and Republicans - have come together and mobilized quickly to work together on behalf of California in this time of need," Rep. Baca added.
Rep. Baca is the senior Californian on the House Agriculture Committee and the newly appointed Chairman of the Ag Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry.
"This freeze has caused a real hardship throughout our state. California farmers need to know that their government has a plan to respond. In addition, and more importantly, those men and women who are facing uncertainty associated with this disaster need help. We must make certain they have the resources they need to keep food on the table. The economic impact of this disaster could be severe and as workers are displaced, we need to be prepared to offer assistance," said Rep. Devin Nunes.
Rep. Nunes is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and represents the most diverse crop-base in the United States, including significant citrus production. Fruits and vegetables face immediate and long term challenges associated with the freeze, including crop damage that will not be evident until close to harvest.