BROWNS VALLEY, Calif. October 6, 2016 – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Yuba City, Fairfield, Davis, CA) yesterday addressed more than 150 high school students at the UC Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center in Browns Valley. The students, from high schools in Yuba, Sutter, Butte, Calaveras, Nevada, and Placer counties, were there for the annual Beef and Range Field Day for 4-H and Future Farmers of America students.
Congressman Garamendi talked about his experiences at his family ranch and about the importance of agricultural research. He asked the students what careers they were interested in, with answers ranging from cattle breeders to veterinarians to mechanical engineers. Not many said research, and that prompted much of the Congressman’s address.
“I bet by the time this day is over, a lot more of you will be interested in a career in research,” Garamendi said. “You’ll see things today that you wouldn’t think of as lab science but it is in part. Ranching and farming are an important part of the agriculture sector, but they are only a piece of it.”
The Congressman proceeded to discuss the intersection of agriculture and climate change.
“Climate change is changing how we produce food, how we deal with pests, how we access our water, how we interact with our neighbors. The wars of the future will be fought over food and water,” he explained. “You want agriculture. You better know water, and if you want water, you need to know about what’s happening to the Sierra snowpack.”
“When I served as Deputy Secretary of the Interior, I was part of the team that shaped U.S. climate change policy for the Kyoto Protocol. We predicted that due to climate change, the forests would move up the mountains and the lower forests would begin to die, and many species wouldn’t be able to adapt and would die off. That’s precisely what’s happening here in the Sierra.”
Thanks to the dangerous combination of drought and climate change, the Sierra snowpack is at historic lows, and it is has historically been California’s most important water source. The Congressman identified a number of other climate concerns, like threats to aquifers, rising pest threats, and increased fire risk. It was a theme of caution and concern tempered by optimism because of the hope he placed in the students in the room.
“Are there solutions to these problems, and if so, where will you find them?” Garamendi asked. “You’ll find them here. You have between your two ears this incredible thing called the human brain. You can use it to solve the challenges of our world.”
After the Congressman’s address, the students broke up into groups to go in depth on several issues important to agriculturalists that the UC Sierra Foothill and Extension Center focuses on, most related to adapting to changing conditions and making livestock healthier. The Congressman joined them for parts of the breakout session then toured the Center.
After the UC event, he hosted a community meeting in Brownsville, where he heard from two dozen constituents on a variety of issues related to land management, declining tree populations, and fire and flood insurance. It was instructive to see that many of the community concerns in Brownsville are being directly addressed at the UC Sierra Foothill campus.