Land O’Lakes member-owners Jack De Jong and Joe Mendes hosted U.S. Rep David Valadao (R-CA-22) at their Cowlifornia Dairy Farms in Hanford, Calif., to demonstrate the urgent need for disaster relief from recent historic flooding and highlight the need for long term water infrastructure investments.
After dealing with severe drought for several years, multiple heavy rain events in recent months are causing significant challenges for California dairy farmers. The on-farm event was the latest in a series of advocacy initiatives Land O’Lakes has led, working with state and federal policymakers urging immediate action in support of the impacted communities.
“We had to move nearly 7,000 animals within three days,” member-owner George Wilgenburg of DDW Farms, explained. “I had to lay off nine people this week because our fields are flooded and we don’t have the work. It’s not easy.”
Valadao, whose family farms in the area, said the tour of conditions on the ground and his discussions with Land O’Lakes member-owners highlight the urgent need for a comprehensive, long-term solution.
“This is something that I think needs to help us draw some attention to a lot of infrastructure investments that we need to make,” he said. “We must cut red tape to build critical water storage so our communities are more resilient to drought. Our ability to grow food for the nation will not survive without a reliable water supply.”
While drought and flooding may seem like opposing challenges, Land O’Lakes Board Director and dairy member Stephen Mancebo explained how action must be taken to address both issues.
“Today we need your help. We need your help to ensure these farms and communities get the immediate relief they need to recover, and we need policymakers to make water infrastructure an immediate investment and top priority,” he said. “Investments in the region include more reservoirs, levee systems, water conveyance infrastructure, groundwater and aquifer recharge, recycling and reuse of water.”
Land O’Lakes, Inc. Senior Vice President of Member and Government Relations Pete Kappelman added that the extreme weather conditions in central California have a much broader impact due to the region’s importance to the world’s food supply.
“Food security is national security,” Kappelman said. “Investing in California’s long term water stability has regional, national and global implications. While immediate relief for our member-owners and the families they support is the top priority, we need to continue to focus on the critically needed water infrastructure solutions that will allow producers to continue feeding a growing population.”
On March 21, Land O Lakes, Inc. President and CEO Beth Ford sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom urging his administration to expedite disaster relief efforts to provide relief to farmers as quickly as possible.
On March 28, Newsom requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to bolster the emergency response in nine California counties. Valadao and the other 52 members of California’s congressional delegation supported the governor’s request in a letter to President Biden dated March 29.