Val Dolcini, California executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency, recently responded to a blog written by Western Farm Press Editor Cary Blake posted Oct. 7 on the www.westernfarmpress.com website.

The blog, called “Undercover approach could help dysfunctional Washington,” suggested that top political leaders (Congress and the Executive Branch) need to break the Washington political dysfunction and government shutdown and go ‘undercover.’

This would include in-person, on-the-job experiences with constituents, including agricultural producers, at the grass-roots level to discover what the REAL issues are with everyday Americans.

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Dolcini’s response to the blog indicates he’s already doing this and has learned a great deal from agriculture. His comments follow.

Cary, nice piece in the Oct. 7 Farm Press blog. When I returned to USDA in 2009, I started my own “Farmer for a Day” program so I could get a better sense of how my programs were working (or not) and how I might tweak them, offer input to my DC colleagues, share best practices, etc.

More importantly, I wanted to get out from behind my desk and actually see what it was like to farm in California in the 21st century.

Since 2009, I’ve worked on a dairy in Madera County, picked strawberries in Salinas, helped out at a Central Coast nursery, weeded on a Delta vegetable operation, and visited with scores of farmers and ranchers all over California, doing some talking, but mostly trying to listen.

I think that spending this time “in the trenches,” as you put it, has made me a better USDA administrator and it’s certainly given me a much better appreciation for what it takes to farm successfully these days.

I’m currently on the shelf at the moment due to the (federal government) shutdown and am sending you this note from my personal mobile, rather than my government device. I’m looking forward to hitting the road this fall to continue working with my employees and our customers in the field.

That’s where the real success stories of California agriculture are born and made every day.

All the best.”

Val Dolcini

California Executive Director

USDA Farm Service Agency

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