U.S. Representative David Valadao on Reforming Agriculture and Immigration

Representative David Valadao shares his thoughts on working across the aisle to find policy solutions that support the U.S. agriculture industry.


Air Date: May 10, 2021

Moderator: Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer and Head of Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: David Valadao, U.S. Representative, California, Nick Ortiz, President and CEO, Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Representative David G. Valadao was born and raised in California’s Central Valley, at the heart of the 21st Congressional District that he now serves. Valadao grew up on his family’s dairy farm in Hanford, giving him a deep, firsthand understanding of the concerns and priorities of the residents, business owners, and agricultural enterprises in his district.

This experienced politician served a term in the California State Assembly and previously represented the 21st District from 2013 to 2019. Valadao reclaimed his Congressional seat in the 2020 election and is eager to continue serving the needs of his home community.

As a Congressman, Valadao is focused on immigration reform and has become a foremost expert on the water issues that plague his part of the country. He shared his insights with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on how bipartisan solutions to issues like immigration reform, trade deals, and water access will help support the American agriculture industry.

Politicians Must Work Across the Aisle to Find Solutions for Constituents

Since his last term in Congress, Valadao feels that American politics has changed — it’s become even more partisan and harder to navigate, he says, especially for representatives with “purple” districts like his.

“My goal has always been to … look for avenues that we can work together and find solutions for our constituents,” Valadao said. “It's important for us to make sure that we show our constituents that we can work across the aisle, and I think I've been successful in that. We've passed some legislation already [during] this Congress, and we're looking forward to getting the Senate to be active on it and hopefully get it onto the President's desk.”

Immigration Reform and Trade Policies Are Essential to the Success of U.S. Agriculture Industry

California’s Central Valley is a large agricultural district and relies on seasonal help to assist with planting and harvesting. For this reason, the Department of Labor’s H-2A guestworker program and larger immigration reform are essential to the success of the American agriculture industry.

“There's a piece of legislation — the Farm Worker Modernization Act — that passed out of the House, and talking to a few Senators over the last couple of weeks, it sounds like there's a chance that could actually come up,” said Valadao. “We're pretty optimistic about that.”

Another key factor in agricultural enterprise success is the ability to easily export the crops they produce.

“When we put people to work, especially in the ag world, we feed the world,” Valadao explained. “What's going on at our ports and even our trade deals all play a vital role in making sure that our businesses can be successful. Once we have the ability to move those commodities, that … helps us create more jobs here in the Central Valley. It's important to make sure that the foundation of our economy is thriving.”

Infrastructure Improvements Can Help Address California’s Droughts and Water Access Issues

As a dairy farmer and as a Californian, Valadao knows all too well how important it is to have consistent access to adequate water supplies. His multi-faceted approach to solving his region’s frequent drought issues relies on key infrastructure improvements like repairing the Friant-Kern Canal and restoring the reservoirs at Lake Isabella and Lake Success.

“Making sure that we use the infrastructure we've got in place today to the best of our ability is important,” said Valadao. “We really need the state to come through and back off a little bit of the regulations that [are] holding [us] back ... being able to move water south. Our communities are in desperate need and in times of drought, I think we need to work together and compromise a little bit on this one.”


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