Equilibrium & Sustainability

California Democrats press for disaster recovery package to help agricultural communities

California Democrats called on Monday for House leaders to advance bipartisan legislation aimed at helping the state’s agricultural communities recover from a winter of devastating storms.

The lawmakers sent a letter to Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) asking them to help bring a disaster recovery package to the House floor, with hopes of delivering “much-needed assistance to agricultural producers affected by the severe weather in California.”

The letter, signed by Reps. Salud Carbajal, Jimmy Panetta, Jim Costa and Zoe Lofgren described how for “multiple weeks on end,” the storms “brought intense rain and catastrophic flooding” to California and damaged thousands of acres of farmland.

The California Democrats asked that McCarthy and Jeffries — as well as House Appropriations Committee chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) and ranking member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) — partner with them “on putting together a bipartisan disaster recovery package” so the rebuilding process can begin.

McCarthy’s home district is in Central California’s San Joaquin Valley, an agricultural powerhouse that faced significant flooding over the past few months.

From Dec. 27, 2022, through Jan. 16, 2023, California endured nine atmospheric rivers — each of which contained as much water as “hurricane-producing powerful storms” and many of which led to mudslides and severe flooding, the letter stated.

“California has more agricultural production than any other state with nearly 70,000 farms operated on 24.3 million acres,” the lawmakers wrote. “These farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers have been drastically impacted by the storms.”

Although some land had yet to be planted before the storms, the letter noted many fields were deluged by floods and debris, delaying traditional planting timelines, while some landowners and farmworkers also lost their homes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency has received 1,000 filings for assistance across five counties: 240 in Santa Barbara, 75 in Ventura, 320 in San Luis Obispo, 300 in Monterey and 65 in Santa Cruz, the lawmakers noted.

Many of these same counties were then also hit by storms in February and March, while Tulare County — parts of which are in McCarthy’s district — has an estimated $113 million in damages, according to the letter.

“It is imperative Congress provide much-needed aid to California’s agricultural community to allow for a full and timely recovery,” the lawmakers concluded.

The Hill has reached out to McCarthy’s office for comment on the letter.

Tags California storms Hakeem Jeffries Kay Granger Kevin McCarthy Kevin McCarthy Rosa DeLauro Zoe Lofgren

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