What can be done in the short- and longterm to address water shortage issues for Santa Cruz County agriculture?
Access to clean water is the lifeblood of our agriculture industry. Since the start of this recent drought, I have been in constant contact with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on ways we can help growers now and ways we can mitigate the impact of future droughts.
Congress has already taken some action to combat the drought by passing a full five-year Farm Bill. The new Farm Bill has provisions to assist growers in finding new sources of water and more efficiently using the water we already have. Additionally, the Secretary made all four counties in our district eligible for disaster relief to help offset the economic impact of the drought. I also joined with other members of the California delegation to introduce new legislation to further assist our growers during these dry times.
These are all great steps to deal with the current drought but the unfortunate reality is that droughts will become more frequent in the future due to global climate change. This year was the driest on record and it is no coincidence it was also one of the warmest. However, even if folks do not believe in climate change, we can all agree that we need a better plan to deal with water shortages. Federal, state and local government need to work together with the communities they serve to find better ways to manage our water supply.
A long-term solution is going to take an all-of-the-above approach. We can search for more efficient methods of irrigation and ways to recycle water through better reclamation practices. Employing growing methods that increase organic matter in the soil will also increase the moisture content of the ground. These and many other ideas are just the tip of the sword. The public and private sector must continue to work together to identify the best practices and ways to replicate them throughout the industry. If everyone works together, we can decrease the impact of future droughts for everyone and ensure the long-term stability of our agriculture community.
In light of 2014 being a midterm election year, what is your stance on the state of campaign finance in this country?
The strength of our democracy is determined by the health of our elections. Recent Supreme Court decisions have dealt a serious blow to supporters of a fair and open election system—one defined by the simple idea of “one person, one vote.”
By improperly giving corporations the same rights as people, the court opened a floodgate of political spending, allowing billions of dollars to come pouring into races through the formation of Super PACs. The average citizen’s voice is drowned out by this influx of cash because they simply cannot compete with such a massive amount of spending. What is even worse is that these unregulated Super PACs do not have to disclose where the money is coming from; allowing groups like those supported by the billionaire Koch brothers to campaign against candidates anonymously. How can a candidate fight back against lies and smears if they don’t even know who is spreading them? The public has the right to know who is trying to influence their vote and what that group’s real agenda is.
Thrown on top of all of this are voter suppression laws and gerrymandered districts designed to reduce the influence of the general public. The whole purpose is to create a system that is rigged to benefit the lucky few at the expense of everyone else.
But I remain hopeful because the country is wakening up to this agenda. They are beginning to reject candidates who listen only to a few wealthy supporters and ignore the needs of everyone else. By fighting back against these malicious attempts to hijack our elections we can reclaim our democracy and elect candidates that work for everyone.