After a three-year hiatus, California Agriculture Day took over the Capitol grounds on Wednesday amid a record heat wave hitting Sacramento. While pandemic precautions cut out the barbecues, hundreds of Californians still toured the booths; took home oranges, flowers and beef jerky; and learned about the state’s many education and extension programs.

Several lawmakers took the stage to commend the hard work of farmers, ranchers and others in the industry. Assembly Ag Chair Robert Rivas of Hollister called the magnitude and diversity of California agriculture “truly, truly staggering” and noted how it has endured through many challenges. He and Senate Ag Chair Andreas Borgeas presented legislative resolutions to CDFA Secretary Karen Ross declaring Wednesday as California Agriculture Day.

Underlining the critical role of the state's food producers, Judy Culbertson, executive director of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, explained the “99% Club” that she teaches to students: The state produces 99% of 14 types of fruits, nuts, vegetables and rice.

“If we stop growing,” she warned, “those 14 commodities will be extinct.”

Senator Steven Bradford of Inglewood, who spent time on a family ranch in Texas as a child, said he has learned more about the environment from talking to farmers and stressed that they care more than many give them credit for.

In a rallying cry for protecting the industry, GOP Assemblymember Jim Patterson of Fresno called it important to “make sure that this building does not continue to pass legislation that hurts agriculture.” He said that losing agriculture would mean losing the culture of agriculture.