What a difference a gubernatorial recall makes.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger drew thousands in his visit to the World Ag Expo this year.

The “Governator” was the second governor to visit the Tulare, Calif., farm equipment show in three years. The man Californians kicked out of the governor's mansion, Gray Davis, was heralded as the first governor in 20 years to visit the show when he flew into Tulare three years ago. The last before Davis was his former boss, Jerry Brown.

Davis drew a polite, but meager crowd compared to Schwarzenegger. The news media almost outnumbered the crowd for Davis.

Sharp contrast

It was a sharp contrast to the hundreds who wedged into the wide walkways around the CASE IH exhibit area to hear Schwarzenegger.

“It was amazing to see the people packed in so tight to see the governor,” said Earl Williams, president of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations. “There were so many people the governor's car could hardly get through the crowd. He told his aides he was really surprised and impressed by the size of the crowd.”

Schwarzenegger flew to Central Valley to stump for his two budget initiatives designed to bail California out of its financial morass. He also came to tell farmers he knows they are overregulated and overburdened with unnecessary costs.

Workers compensation costs are driving businesses out of California, but Schwarzenegger recognized that farmers cannot walk away from their farms to escape those unreasonable costs.

“If you break you arm on the job it costs five times more than it would if you broke your arm at home,” said the most popular governor in California since Ronald Reagan.

“That is wrong,” he proclaimed, drawing one of many rousing applauses.

Schwarzenegger joked with the crowd, but was deadly serious when he told them he has given the state legislature until this spring to pass meaningful workers compensation reform or he was going to put the issue on the November ballot for voters to make the decisions.

Surrounded by a rainbow of tractor colors and the agricultural bounty of the central valley, Schwarzenegger's visit on one of nicest days ever for the Tulare event was the biggest thing to happen at World Ag Expo in decades.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com