Ag Secretary Vilsack surveys drought damage in Fresno County: ‘A profound need for additional research’

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FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – A top Biden administration official visited Fresno County on Thursday to see the drought’s impact firsthand.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited TerraNova Ranch, a local fruit and vegetable farm, and was joined by Rep. Jim Costa and Rep. David Valadao. They discussed the work being done in Washington to help farmers – and all three reinforced that the drought and crisis that is being caused by a water shortage is not going unheard in Washington.

“For agriculture, we’re concerned about all the issues,” Costa said. “But key here in our valley is water, water, and water, a reliable food supply.”

The U.S. Senate is currently debating a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill, $50 billion of which is set aside for water infrastructure on the West Coast. Vilsack says the USDA is committed to helping farmers in drought-stricken states like California manage water.

“There is a profound need for additional research in the area of how we can re-use existing water resources,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack would not say if he supports the construction of new water storage sites, such as dams and reservoirs, which is a highly debated issue in California.

“There are obviously a lot of issues involved with storage and we’ve got to work through those issues,” Vilsack said. “We’ve got to figure out how to work through them because I don’t think there’s any one silver bullet here.”

Rep. Valadao says more federal funds need to be set aside for water infrastructure than what is being proposed.

“The infrastructure bill is moving through the process,” Valadao said. “But what I would like to see even from the days of when President Biden put his proposal forward, I would like to see the number larger on the water infrastructure portion of it.”

The bipartisan infrastructure bill is currently going through the amendment process. Valadao says there is not yet a final number on what the funding for water infrastructure might be.

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