When extreme drought and heat parched California last year, the temperatures approached 90 degrees on Ag Day. This year the celebration of agriculture was subdued by a cold, driving rain, as farms in the southern San Joaquin Valley battled to hold back meltwater from a record snowpack and Central Coast farms once again faced flood warnings.

Yet the agriculture power couple in the Capitol still toured the booths and spoke with farmers. Senator Brian Dahle and Assemblymember Megan Dahle, both Republicans from Bieber, are the only full-time farmers in the building. The booths had more power as well, with a new section dedicated to autonomous and electric tractor displays from farm-ng, Monarch Tractor and Solectrac.

Brian and Megan DahleSen. Brian Dahle and Asm. Megan Dahle

Last year the Capitol hosted the first Ag Day following the pandemic and several lawmakers spoke on the important role agriculture plays in putting food on the table. This year two lawmakers spoke at the ceremony and few braved the weather. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon saluted the leadership of CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and the efforts of First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom in boosting school meals.

“I know you're no stranger to bad weather,” Rendon told the farmers and ranchers in the crowd. “You work in the driving rain, you work in the hot, hot heat, you work 365 days a year. Your efforts are recognized by all Californians—but I really want you to know that your efforts are certainly recognized by those of us who are fortunate enough to work in this building behind us.”

Senate Agriculture Chair Melissa Hurtado described how Central Valley agriculture created a pathway for opportunity for her immigrant parents through jobs and upward mobility and it provided a community.

“And that's what agriculture means,” said Hurtado. “That's what today is really all about. It's about community.”

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The rain reminded CDFA Secretary Karen Ross about “neighbors helping neighbors” when flooding struck the valley last week and dairy farmers had to evacuate 25,000 cows to safety. That number has grown to nearly 100,000, according to Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of Western United Dairies.

Jennifer Siebel NewsomFirst Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom

California is such a “fabulous food state” for its innovative farmers, climate and “the fact that immigrants came over from every country and brought their foods and their culture and their growing methods,” said Ross. She then introduced Siebel Newsom, “a wonderful champion and a great friend for all of us.”

While touting the administration’s efforts with California-grown school meals and educational gardening programs, the first partner explained how the state is utilizing “climate-smart regenerative agriculture practices” to “protect and improve soil health, biodiversity, climate resilience and water resources while making farming more productive and more profitable.”

CDFA hosted Ag Day in partnership with California Women for Agriculture and the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom under the theme of cultivating community and culture.

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