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U.S. Ag Secretary Stops In Region
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U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, center, and local Congressman Jeff Denham, right, shake hands with residents during a stop in Oakdale on Tuesday, Aug. 14.

In a rare visit to the Central Valley, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made stops in Modesto and Oakdale on Tuesday, Aug. 14.

On Tuesday morning, the Cowboy Capital of the World welcomed Perdue as part of a visit with U.S. Representative Jeff Denham, touching on agriculture and water issues. Escorted by California Highway Patrol cars into the Brichetto Ranch property off of Crane Road in Oakdale, Secretary Perdue and Congressman Denham, along with their entourage, made it to the property and began shaking hands with those in attendance.

Welcoming Denham and Perdue were the Brichetto family, members of the Oakdale Irrigation District board, local farmers and other agriculture enthusiasts. In a roughly 45-minute informal session, Perdue and Denham both discussed the current “Water Wars” issue concerning the proposed water grab that would divert water from this area; as well as crop concerns, the environment and more. They also received a tour of the Brichetto Ranch.

“First of all, I want to thank John (Brichetto) and his family for allowing us to come out here today and see real agriculture in California,” said Perdue. “It’s important for me to come out here and visit with folks and see what it is they do and work side by side with them, see what it is they do. That’s what Congressman Denham does every day. The water in California is so important to these farmers, dairymen and frankly to the United States. There is enough water for everybody. We just need to find the smart way to use this water and I think if we all work together we can reach that agreement.”

Congressman Denham also spoke on the importance of his visit: “Our water is the biggest concern right now. If they take our water it will devastate our community, devastate our agriculture industry let alone the hydropower that comes with us. So it is a big fight that we have.”

As part of that fight to keep local water here, a rally is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 20 at noon on the north steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento to protest the State Water Board’s plan to take billions of gallons of water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers and divert it elsewhere in the state.

Officials with the Save The Stan group note that the state has falsely claimed increased “unimpaired flows” will boost salmon populations in the rivers – ignoring scientific data that shows reducing predation and restoring habitat also are critical factors. Save the Stan, local officials and legislators are encouraging residents to attend the rally on Aug. 20 in Sacramento in hopes of stopping the water grab.

Along with the tour in Oakdale, Perdue and Denham also hosted an informal ‘Town Hall’ session at the Paul Wenger Farm on Dunn Road in Modesto on Tuesday.