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Duvall, Costa discuss outlook for agriculture

Issue Date: December 16, 2020
By Christine Souza and Kevin Hecteman
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall, right, speaks with California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson at a virtual “coffee talk” during the California Farm Bureau Annual Meeting.
Photo/Dave Kranz

Reflecting on the disruptions of 2020 and the outlook for 2021, American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall and U.S. Rep. Jim Costa offered their opinions on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during separate appearances as part of the California Farm Bureau Annual Meeting.

Duvall and Costa spoke with California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson during "coffee talk" sessions within the virtual Annual Meeting format.

Speaking with Duvall via Zoom, Johansson noted how Farm Bureau, at both the state and national levels, made a point early in the pandemic to reassure people that food would be available.

Duvall said Farm Bureau worked with the Trump administration and government leaders to secure relief for farmers, adding that the pandemic also brought people together.

"The pandemic crisis brought more unity and brought more food and agricultural groups together more than ever before," he said.

As President-elect Biden prepares to take office, Duvall and Johansson discussed advocating for farmers in the coming year.

Duvall noted a congratulatory social media video he addressed to Biden was intended to "start building a bridge to this new administration and so that we can have a seat like we had with the Trump administration." Duvall said he has spoken to Biden's transition team and to Tom Vilsack, who has been nominated as U.S. agriculture secretary, adding, "We're working real hard to try to build those bridges and to get us prepared." (See story)

During his coffee chat with Johansson, Costa, D-Fresno, said he expects the 117th Congress, which takes office Jan. 3, to look at food supply-chain issues with an eye toward a more resilient supply chain, using knowledge gained during the pandemic.

Farmers and ranchers will have "valuable input" in the process, Costa noted.

"I think all of you, our producers—whether you're farmers, ranchers, dairymen or women, or in the cattle business, poultry—that you have ideas on how we can better deal with it," he said.

"As a result of this pandemic, people are beginning to realize that their food doesn't come from the grocery store or their favorite fast-food place or restaurant," he said. "It comes from all of you."

Costa also predicted Congress would debate a bipartisan infrastructure bill covering schools, transportation and access to broadband.

"You sure as heck can't do telemedicine, let alone virtual learning, which is hard enough, if you don't have access to broadband," he said.

Farmers' resiliency will help them survive the disruptions of the pandemic, he said.

"I truly believe that we're going to get through this," Costa said. "We'll be tested like our parents and grandparents were tested" during the Great Depression and World War II.

"When we come together and put our differences aside," he said, "there's no challenge we can't overcome."

(Christine Souza and Kevin Hecteman are assistant editors of Ag Alert.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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