Sen. Kamala Harris Talks Water With California Farmers

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Sen. Kamala Harris tours a grape orchard outside the Fowler Packing Co. plant in Fresno, with plant co-owner Dennis Parnagian.  (Vanessa Rancano/KQED)

Sen. Kamala Harris took time out during the congressional recess this month for a listening tour through California. On Wednesday, she visited the Central Valley, where the freshman senator toured a citrus-packing facility on the outskirts of Fresno.

After sampling a mandarin orange and proclaiming it "delicious," Harris sat down with two dozen people connected with the Central Valley's multibillion-dollar agricultural industry to get their take on the federal farm bill and learn about other issues concerning them.

Water was top-of-mind for many of the speakers.

Jason Phillips runs the Friant Water Authority. He told Harris his agency delivers water to about 1 million acres -- water that thousands of farms depend on.

"They ask me not just to get them water this year, but what's the future look like?" Phillips said. "And it’s been 60-plus years since infrastructure was updated."


Other speakers urged the senator to secure funding to build the proposed Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River.

Immigration and labor issues, air quality and environmental regulation also came up during the hourlong meeting.

Harris listened intently and took notes.

"I want to make sure I have a very good and accurate perspective from you on the needs of California," she told the group, "so that I can go back and be a voice for you and for this community and make sure California gets its fair share."

Sen. Kamala Harris Talks Water With California Farmers

Sen. Kamala Harris Talks Water With California Farmers

Sen. Dianne Feinstein also visited Fresno last month, and valley farmers expressed delight that both senators had taken the time to visit.

William Bourdeau is vice president of agricultural giant Harris Farms. He's pleased Harris came to see the realities on the ground.

"I am so glad that there’s an open dialogue," he said. "I’m sure we won’t agree on everything, but I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to come together and compromise and find solutions that benefit everybody."

Harris didn’t make any specific promises on policy, but did say she’d come back to the valley.