By: Rudy Salas, Assembly Member. Photo: Shutterstock
Every year, the state budget is one of the most important items that my colleagues and I work on. In California, a state with the fifth largest economy in the world, there are a lot of budget items and issues that we debate. As a lifelong resident of the Central Valley, it is always my top priority during these discussions to fight to make sure that the Valley gets its fair share of state funding and resources. This year, I was proud to help deliver a balanced and on-time budget with some major wins for families in the Central Valley.
Throughout the many items included in this year’s budget, I am particularly proud of our commitment to agriculture, clean drinking water, and combating valley fever. The agricultural industry is vital to the strength of California’s economy and the well-being of working families in the Valley. This year’s budget included some important investments in programs that incentivize farmers and combat dangerous pests. I was pleased to see that funding for the Healthy Soils more than quadrupled from last year’s $5 million dollarsto a total of $28 million dollars in this year’s budget. This program provides financial assistance to farmers who implement projects that improve soil health and sequester carbon. With last year’s funding from the 2018-19 budget, four farms in my district received money for projects including farms in Hanford and Delano. As the next round of applications are submitted, I will continue advocating for Valley farmers to benefit from this important program.
Our state continues to invest millions in technologies to partner with farmers in looking toward the future. This year, the state budget included $34 million for dairy digester projects that will capture methane from manure that is then converted into clean and renewable fuel. In the past few years, I have actively supported the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars for dairy digester projects that will help provide new sources of clean transportation fuel while reducing pollution and improving air quality. The state has also invested hundreds of millions of dollars from the cap-and-trade program into the Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emissions Reductions (FARMER) Program to incentivize farmers to purchase newer, cleaner agricultural equipment. The vast majority of the funding for both of these programs gets invested right here in the Central Valley to help our farmers and I will continue to fight for those programs to be adequately funded.
Another urgent issue that requires California’s immediate attention is the invasion of the Citrus Pest. These insects have the potential to devastate the entire California citrus industry resulting in the loss of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. I was proud to support an ongoing investment of $5 million dollars in this year’s budget to build a dedicated Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Division within the California Department of Food and Agriculture to enhance citrus pest detection, suppression and eradication throughout the state.
Safe and clean drinking water remains a top priority. This year’s budget made substantial investments in addressing water challenges with the creation of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water fund which will provide $100 million dollars per year to provide communities with the resources to deliver clean drinking water to their residents. We were also able to secure specific funding for the Central Valley with $12.5 million for safe drinking water and $2.5 million to bring rural communities like Arvin into compliance with safe drinking water standards.
These investments are critical to improving the lives of Valley residents who suffer disproportionately from issues like unsafe drinking water. Another difficulty that faces residents in the Central Valley is valley fever. This debilitating sickness is caused by a fungus which becomes airborne when soil is disturbed. Thousands of families are affected by valley fever every year. The devastating effects of the disease can take away people’s ability to work resulting in costly hospital bills. In the worst cases, the disease can be fatal. This year, I secured an additional $2 million dollars in funding for the Valley Fever Institute at the Kern Medical Center to research and treat valley fever. With this funding, we will move one step closer to raising awareness, discovering a cure and ridding the Central Valley of this terrible disease.
This state budget reinforces California’s commitment to supporting working families by investing in the Central Valley. But we can and must do more. I will continue to fight to ensure that our farmers and families get the resources they need and look forward to advocating for continued investments in agriculture, clean water, and finding a cure for valley fever.