California leaders call for rural stimulus

Jul 17, 2009
by WLJ
California leaders call for rural stimulus

Investments in water development, food programs and education will stimulate rural economies and help revive hard-hit communities, according to the leader of the state’s largest farm organization. California Farm Bureau Federation President Doug Mosebar told the California Recovery Task Force last week that state and local policymakers must consider the needs of rural communities as they determine how to allocate federal economicstimulus money.

Mosebar addressed the task force during a Road to Recovery conference held in Fresno. He urged policymakers to use stimulus money to “get water flowing again” to regions hit by water shortages due to drought and environmental policies that have reduced water deliveries.

“There will be no recovery in our rural communities if we don’t fix our water system,” Mosebar said. “To address our current water emergency, we should think big and think creatively about how the stimulus

money could be used.” For example, he recommended the state direct money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to stimulate construction of the proposed Two Gates project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and a proposed “intertie” canal to link state and federal water projects, both intended to add flexibility to the water system “at a time when it’s desperately needed.” He encouraged government leaders to build projects that assure reliable water supplies for the Central Valley and for all of California, including delta farms.

Mosebar said Recovery Act money should be directed to shore up the sagging dairy economy. Dairy farmers have been saddled with an oversupply of milk because of the struggling national economy and a drop in exports.

“Use the stimulus funds earmarked for restocking local food banks to purchase fresh and dry milk products and cheese, and insist that government food purchases for school lunch programs do the same,” he said. “Such expenditures would provide the dual benefits of providing high-energy, nutritional food products to low-income families, while helping dairy farmers pull out of their downward price spiral.”

Stimulus funds should also be directed toward reviving career technical education programs, Mosebar said. Those programs train people interested in farming and ranching and include a variety of vocations.

“Cultivating a new generation of food producers should be a priority,” he said. “We should never have to depend on other countries for our food.” As often as possible, Mosebar said, federal stimulus money should be directed to projects that provide multiple benefits for each dollar spent. Projects that encourage continued food and farm production in California, he said, “will generate economic activity in both our rural communities and our cities, and they will assure continued food security for our nation.” — WLJ