A congressman who is hoping to become the next House Agriculture Committee chairman came to San Joaquin County on Wednesday. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who is also a certified public accountant, came to attend a fundraiser and learn more about agricultural issues specific to California.
Several Lodi-area farmers gathered Wednesday at Woodbridge Crossing to share lunch with Conaway and explain what they see as the major issues facing local farmers.
Conaway's district in Texas is dominated by cotton, cattle, sheep and goats, he said.
Conaway said he visited California last October to campaign for Republican candidates. In the process, he learned a lot about California's agriculture.
"There's a wealth of agriculture (in California)," Conaway said. "I was shocked, absolutely stunned. Everything you and I like to eat, chances are that California produces it."
Conaway said that the proposed tunnel that would transport Delta waters from Northern California to the southern San Joaquin Valley and to Southern California urban areas should remain out of the hands of the federal government.
Lodi-area Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, has actively opposed the transfer of water to Southern California as proposed, and lobbied state officials on the issue.
"As long as we (in Congress) keep out of water issues, the better," Conaway said. "California can take better care of its water than anyone in Washington."
The luncheon and farm tour for Conaway was arranged by Steve Ding, owner of Woodbridge Crossing and chief of staff for former Rep. Richard Pombo of Tracy.
Ding said he's glad that Conaway is a CPA because there aren't very many in Congress. He's also glad that the Agriculture Committee has turned its focus toward farm issues. Until Pombo took office after the 1992 election, the Ag Committee's members were more interested in food stamp eligibility than agricultural issues, Ding said.
Guests included local farmers Rudy Maggio, David Phillips, Hank Van Exel, John Kautz and Brad Goehring. Also present to meet with Conaway were John Feliz of Food-4-Less Stores and Kenny Watkins, a Linden resident who is first vice president of the California Farm Bureau.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.