House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R–Bakersfield) is no stranger of Tulare’s International Agri-Center nor the World Ag Expo. But for its opening day, he helped bring in its biggest attractions.
McCarthy kicked off the 2023 World Ag Expo with a swaggering opening ceremony, replete with a cannon firing, and delivered a slate of House Republicans and Democrats to take in first-hand comments from local farmers on the all-important 2023 Farm Bill.
The big picture: While tens of millions pass through the Tulare-based farming exposition each year, the billions on the line for the 2023 Farm Bill, the authorizing document that funds a litany of farm programs and Federal food safety net helped raise the stakes during a House Ag Committee listening session at the Agri-Center.
- House Ag Committee chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R–Penn.) was flanked by McCarthy, and Reps. David Valadao (R–Hanford), John Duarte (R–Modesto), Jim Costa (D–Fresno), Doug LaMalfa (R–Richvale), Jimmy Panetta (D–Monterey), Salud Carbajal (D–Santa Barbara), David Rouzer (R–N.C.), and Rep. John Rose (R–Tenn.)
- The panel heard testimony from Valley ag leaders for more than two hours on Tuesday morning, capping the Ag Expo’s opening slate of ceremonies and events.
What they’re saying: McCarthy set the tone early on Tuesday, noting that “in this new Congress, I wanted to make sure Washington comes to [Valley farmers].
- “We’re here on Valentine’s Day, which should show you how much we love agriculture,” Thompson said to kickoff the hearing.
- “I’ve been proud to bring Speakers to the Valley to teach them about agriculture, from Paul Ryan to John Boehner, but now I don’t have to teach McCarthy anything. We just gotta fight in the same direction and continue to work hard together,” Valadao, a career dairyman, said, noting that no Speaker had previously sat-in on a listening session for the Farm Bill in his career.
- “It is absolutely essential that we are here today to listen to all of the farmers, ranchers, dairymen and women who really make up this great Valley of ours and the No. 1 agricultural state in the nation. I always say: food security is national security,” Costa told the audience during the session.
- “This has become the most expensive year in farming,” Almond Alliance chief Aubrey Bettencourt told the panel in pressing for eschewing utilizing adjusted gross income to limit almond growers and specialty crop growers from a bevy of farm programs authorized by the Farm Bill. “The cost of doing business across farming, all across the United States, has gone up. We need our programs to proportionately allow for access, especially for our family owned-and-operated [growers].
- “All of us are viewing this Farm Bill as a great opportunity for Congress,” Ian LeMay, chief of the California Fresh Fruit Association told the Congressional panel on Tuesday. “Not only to fortify assistance but also propel ourselves into the next 100 years of U.S. Ag economy.”