Over the clucks of hundreds of hens, a federal official assured this week that the government really does listen to farmers.
A farm 10 miles east of Turlock was one of the stops Tuesday on a seven-day tour for 19 policy-makers from federal agencies.
The California Agricultural Leadership Foundation is putting on the 30th annual D.C. Exchange to raise awareness about water, pests, exports, food safety and other concerns.
"We want to know what the issues are that they are facing and whether we can formulate policy back in Washington to help them," said Sid Abel, an assistant deputy administrator at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Riverdale, Md..
About half of the participants are from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The rest work on matters affecting California farming in other parts of government, such as the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget.
The participants, who arrived Saturday, are staying with several farm families, along with hitting the tour stops in the Central Valley and central coast.
Organic start to the day
Tuesday started at the Burroughs family's organic farm, home to chickens that feed in pastures and to dairy cows, almond orchards and other operations.
Later in the day, the group saw almond production at the nearby Hilltop Ranch and Spycher Bros. It learned about water from the Turlock Irrigation District, milk from the Bill Ahlem Dairy and cheese from Hilmar Cheese Co.
Among the other stops over the week are wineries and farms that grow melons, artichokes and orchids. The group visited the University of California at Davis and on Wednesday viewed irrigation systems and river restoration on the West Side.
Leadership group paid bill
The money for the tour is raised by alumni of the California Agricultural Leadership Program, which trains residents of the state over two years.
"The whole purpose of this is to build a bridge, build a communication link and understanding," co-chairwoman Robin Flournoy said.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.