World Ag Expo hosts town hall with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
Central Valley farmers got to share their concerns with the country's top ag official.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue took their questions during a town hall at the 2018 World Ag Expo in Tulare.
He fielded questions about issues ranging from trade to water, crop insurance, dairy regulations and immigration.
Some had concerns about revisions to NAFTA and other trade agreements.
"We need to make sure we can sell products beyond Mexico and Canada, have access to Indo-Pacific region. That's vital," Perdue said.
Others wanted to know what the Trump Administration is doing to deliver more water to farmers.
"I'm hopeful with new rules in permitting we can capture more of the surface water here, slow runoff there rather than let it go out in the ocean," he said.
Westside farmer Joe Del Bosque came hoping to hear more about immigration reform.
He wanted to ask Perdue what can be done for the undocumented workforce already in the U.S.
"Some way to bring legal status for our current workers. The ones that are there have been there for years, decades, working in the farms, growing the crops. We got to do something to get them legal status," Del Bosque said.
While he didn't get to ask his question, Perdue addressed the issue with the media after the town hall.
"A legal, foreign-born workforce is critical to California, as the rest of the farmers in the U.S.," he said.
He pointed to current discussions in the U.S. Senate over the future of DACA.
Any solution there, will likely impact the future of a labor force, too.
And until an agreement is reached, Del Bosque says food and jobs hang in the balance.
"When we don't have water, we can't grow crops. When we have water, we can grow them but we can lose them if we don't have people," Del Bosque said.
Secretary Perdue will be meeting with more farmers Wednesday.
He will be on an orange grove in Porterville, an almond orchard in Goshen and a dairy in Hanford.
He will round out his valley visit with a stop at the California aqueduct -- where Del Bosque will get to ask his questions.