LEMOORE – With an eye on trade and prospects for re-election, Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence made good use of their one-day stop in the San Joaquin Valley on Wednesday.
Arriving late morning to the Naval Air Station here, the second couple departed for a small fundraiser at Coalinga’s Harris Ranch, hosted by owner John Harris and his wife, Carole.
Following a roundtable with select donors, Pence addressed the roughly 100 attendees on the various topics of the day – from the economy to national security, touching on the importance of the Navy base he had arrived at earlier, attendees told The Sun.
The fundraiser benefited Trump-Pence Victory, a joint fundraising committee between President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee.
According to sources involved in the event, Pence hauled in about $550,000 from Valley donors on Wednesday.
Connecting with military families
The Pences departed Coalinga for Lemoore, where the Second Lady met with military spouses about employment opportunities for military families.
Following her meeting, she departed for downtown Hanford to Board & Brush, a wood sign workshop owned by Navy pilot Colin and his wife, Joan.
Former Hanford Councilwoman Diane Sharp told The Sun that the Second Lady painted a sign in the shop before greeting on-lookers in downtown.
Tough talk on trade
Meanwhile, a sizeable crowd gathered at Freitas Family Farms for an event hosted by America First Policies to hear about the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the hopeful replacement of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Many attendees eyes, and reporters’ microphones, were trained at former Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), who was in attendance to provide an introduction for Pence later in the program.
During a press scrum before the event, reporters peppered the three-term former Congressman on the new trade deal and, perhaps more importantly, whether he would take another run for Congress to oust Rep. TJ Cox (D-Fresno) in 2020.
(In full disclosure, I have previously worked for Valadao).
“While NAFTA has benefited many American workers and businesses, the agreement is now almost two decades old,” Valadao said during his address to the crowd. “There is vital necessity and a clear opportunity to improve the agreement and modernize its rules to better address the 21st Century economy.”
“I am hopeful that the Democratic-controlled House will do the right thing and finalize the USMCA,” he added, to a smattering of applause.
“It’s OK to applaud that one.”
After hearing from Agriculture Undersecretary Ted McKinney, Pence – clad in a maroon short-sleeve shirt and boots – stepped up to the stage.
Before jumping into trade talk, Pence said he had been briefed by California’s Office of Emergency Services, the United States Geological Survey, and FEMA on the aftermath of the two earthquakes that struck Ridgecrest on July 4 and 5.
“We thank God that they weren’t worse,” Pence said, eventually thanking first responders.
Moving to the issues of the agriculture economy, the Vice President wasted little time reminding the audience of the significance of the Valley region.
“The San Joaquin Valley is one of the most dynamic agricultural areas in the world,” Pence said. “And we want to see it prosper even more.”
Pence touched on the state-of-play when it came to regulatory reform. He noted that the Trump administration didn’t quite follow its campaign promise of repealing two regulations for every new regulation.
The administration has actually over-delivered: repealing 14 regulations for every new regulation created.
“We are clearing away the red tape in the city and on the farm,” Pence added.
Pointing to the 2017 tax cut, Pence noted that farmers are now able to deduct 100 percent of the cost of new farm equipment purchased.
“It’s been two and a half years of action. It’s been two and a half years of results. It’s been two and a half years of promises made and promises kept,” the Vice President said. “And we’re just getting started.”
Pence moved to trade, the issue of the day. He noted that NAFTA had long been a target of Trump’s during the campaign and that renegotiating the pact was a high priority.
“You all understand the global impact of our economy and the need to have a trade deal with our neighbors to the north and the south that really puts American agriculture first,” he told the crowd of more than 500.
Pence noted that one hallmark of USMCA was the end to Canadian treatment of Class 6 and 7 milk to undercut American dairy prices.
During the address, Pence highlighted a few dairy farmers – Jim Wilson of J&D Wilson & Sons Dairy, 90-year-old Johnny Fagundes III and John Fagundes IV,
“The USMCA is a win for American dairy,” he declared.
Pence then cracked a joke at hosts, Doug and Julie Freitas who produce feed for dairies in the region, noting that working dairies need feed.
“I know it’s gotta go in the front before it comes out the bottom,” Pence joked about dairy feed. “We had some cows.”
He projected USMCA would deliver 176,000 new jobs and $68 billion in investment in the economy.
Despite vast, much-needed improvements in a number of sectors over NAFTA, there has been growing resistance from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to place the new pact up for a vote, citing need to “surgically” make changes to the deal.
“We’re not going to allow outdated trade deals to hurt American farmers or American workers anymore,” Pence said. “The President’s done his job, our neighbors have done their job, now it’s time for Congress to do their job.”
Pence closed out with a call-to-action to the audience, asking them to make a concerted pitch to California federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
“Tell them you ran into Mike at Doug and Julie’s the other day,” he joked.
Following the USMCA event, the Pences departed the base here for Vandenberg Air Force Base. Following their stop in Lompoc, they will leave for San Diego.