California Farm Bureau in Washington D.C.

Written By: Tawny Tesconi, Executive Director
Published: August 5, 2019

In mid-July, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. with a small delegation of California Farm Bureau Federation representatives. Josh Rolph, CFBF’s Manager of the Federal Policy Division, organized this trip to meet with California’s representatives to discuss critical issues facing our state’s agriculture industry. Besides me, there were two other county managers on the trip, each representing two central California counties.

During a few pre-trip phone conference calls, we determined that of the three counties represented all had the same significant areas of concern to discuss with the Electeds: water, trade, and the shortage of labor. In addition to these topics, I also identified additional federal policy-related subject matter that was of concern to our county. Specifically, livestock origin requirements related to organic milk, the impact that the California Tiger Salamander habitat protection has on agriculture and PG&E’s abandonment of the Potter Valley Power Plant.

Outside of our visit, it was a hectic week on Capitol Hill. The legislative session only had a few days left until it was recessed, and the building was electrified because of a controversial pending
agenda item scheduled for the House of Representatives. We had traveled to Washington, D.C. during the week in which all of America was debating President Trump’s tweet that allegedly
discriminated against four members of congress. Not only was there an interest in reprimanding the President for the implications of his tweet, but several legislators were pushing for impeachment proceedings to begin.

With all of this going on in D.C., most of our state representatives were still willing to find time in-between committee meetings and votes on the floor to meet with us. This told me two things.
Our representatives do have an interest in California agriculture, and Farm Bureau has clout on Capitol Hill. I don’t recall where I heard this, but Farm Bureau is in the top 15 when it comes to
special interest groups that impact our nation’s policy decisions.

Our visit with Congressman Thompson went well, and we had an in-depth discussion around trade, specifically the USMCA trade agreement. Our Congressman sits on the Ways and Means Committee, one of the most influential political bodies in Washington, D.C. As part of his duties on this committee, he represents California’s interest as a member of a NAFTA subcommittee. Congressman Thompson expressed a sincere interest in supporting agriculture. His desire to see trade agreements that encourage exports of California wine and other commodities to neighboring countries was evident.

Tricia Stever Blattler, Tulare County Farm Bureau manager, was part of our delegation, so we paid a visit to Congressman Devon Nunes representing California’s 22nd District. Given the farming counties included in his district and his years as a dairyman, Congressman Nunes was very attuned to the concerns with WOTUS, labor, and immigration affecting agriculture. He and his staff were kind enough to give us a tour of the Capitol, ornate with statues of our country’s founding fathers confined in walls of artifacts detailing the history of the United States.

Congressman Kevin McCarthy was one of our last stops during our 2-day visit to Capitol Hill. He represents the 23rd Congressional District in California – a district that takes in parts of Los Angeles and Tulare counties and all of Kern county. As the House Minority Leader, we are fortunate that he has a keen interest in supporting agriculture and willingly listens to Farm Bureau representatives.

My first visit to Washington, D.C. as your SCFB Executive Director was a memorable experience, and I look forward to other opportunities to meet with our political leaders on their turf. Based on the positive reception we received from all the offices visited, I am hoping CFBF continues to encourage county managers and board members to make the trek back to see our nation’s political leaders.

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