Swirling around the 2007 farm bill are some of the most important issues Congress will face this year -- money to feed starving children around the world, diverting food to create biofuel, subsidies for rich commodity farmers in a time of record profits, improved conservation practices, better nutrition in schools, critical research into crops and more. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, who represents parts of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties and all of Merced County, is square in the middle of negotiations concerning these weighty issues.
Cardoza reports that without his "major objections," many of the issues most important to California farmers might have been "written out of the bill." Being in position to voice those objections, and act upon them, is why his appointment as a "conferee" in the final negotiations of the bill was of such great value to San Joaquin Valley farmers.
It also has given Cardoza a look at some of the arcane budget manipulations that are taking place. For instance, he feels it is very unlikely that there will be any real reduction in money spent on feeding hungry children through the McGovern-Dole Program. Certain bookkeeping tricks will likely be used to keep the program whole. But he can't be certain until the final bill is hammered out and passed from the conference committee back to the Senate and House of Representatives.
Cardoza's presence on the conference committee gives his constituents a unique opportunity to be heard. The best way to let the representative know how you feel about these issues is to send him a message through his Web site: www.house.gov/ cardoza/contact.shtml.
Just as important, though, is staying tuned to what is taking place in Washington. It's important to cannery workers in Modesto, starving children in Africa and to farmers in Patterson, Atwater and Escalon and everywhere else.
-- The Bee's editorial board