The ascension of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, to House Majority Leader was applauded by Western Growers and is seen as a positive step for California agriculture.
McCarthy’s district includes much of the city of Bakersfield and some vegetable and permanent crop ground at the extreme south end of the San Joaquin Valley where it collides with the mountain range that separates the Valley from the Los Angeles basin.
Of McCarthy’s election to the GOP House leadership post, Western Growers President and Chief Executive Office Tom Nassif wrote: “We are very pleased to have our industry so well represented in the House Leadership structure."
Majority Leader-elect McCarthy has provided critical leadership on a number of issues impacting the produce industry, including ensuring passage of a Farm Bill that recognizes the importance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts, ongoing work to negotiate a solution to our water crisis, and of course working to address the immigration needs of agriculture,” Nassif said.
Nassif continues: “Time is short and the problems our country and industry face are urgent. We look forward to working this year with the new majority leader to bring relief to our drought stricken farmers and to finally fix our broken immigration system.”
McCarthy was elected to Congress less than eight years ago and apparently defeated Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador for the majority leader post. McCarthy was elected to the spot after former Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in a primary election in Virginia.
An article in the Fresno Bee suggests McCarthy’s ascension was aided by personal ties and the considerable “fundraising prowess” he has demonstrated since joining the House leadership team.
Whether this puts California in a better spot politically, particularly in agricultural policy debates, is itself debatable. Given that House majority and minority leaders come from California (Rep. Nancy Pelosi is from the Bay Area) one might surmise that California’s political standing is higher today due to this.
Skeptics argue that California’s 53 votes in the House of Representatives seem to matter little in agricultural policy debates and decisions as it appears that much of the political clout agriculture carries in this country still hails from other regions.
This can be a bit disappointing since California is by far the most agriculturally prolific state in the nation, in spite of its other challenges.
One can hope that McCarthy’s promotion will bode well for California agriculture and the challenges it faces. The most pressing will be water availability, not just for the state’s farmers, but everyone.
Maybe McCarthy can invest some of his political capital to convince California’s two U.S. Senators that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is woefully wrong in his belief that the name of a football franchise is of greater national interest than the host of real problems America faces right now.
The sustained availability of water for all of California – its farmers, its residents, and its environment – needs to be at the top of Mr. McCarthy’s to-do list.