The President Visits CA Farmer Joe Del Bosque, Sees Drought-Ridden Farmland First-Hand


By Laurie Greene, Associate Editor


In an exclusive interview with Joe L. Del Bosque, Jr. after he and his wife, Maria Gloria Del Bosque, hosted President Obama on his farm in Merced County, Empresas Del Bosque, Inc., Del Bosque reflected on the eventful day.

Joe 1 Make Small
Governor Brown, President Obama, Joe and Maria Gloria Del Bosque


A grower of almonds, cherries, cantaloupes, honeydew melons, asparagus, and mini watermelons, Del Bosque commented, “It was such an honor to have him there, for him to fly all the way out from Washington, and drop in on our farm. We were speechless.”


“My wife was so excited and so nervous about President Obama’s visit, but I told her, “Don’t get nervous. He is coming to our place; this field is our home. We’re inviting him here, it’s a great honor, but we have an important message to tell him.”


“The privilege that we got to be the ones to tell him our story, to represent the Valley—it was just awesome,” said the down-to-earth melon farmer. “It was just awesome; I can’t describe it any other way.”


In addition to Joe and Maria Gloria Del Bosque, participants included:

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Michael Connor, Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

California Governor Jerry Brown

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer

Representative Jim Costa

Nancy McFadden, executive secretary for Gov. Brown

Ann Notthoff, Natural Resource Defense Council California Director

Mario Santoyo, California Latino Water Coalition

Martin McIntyre, San Luis Water District

Thomas Birmingham, Westlands Water District

Ronald Jacobsma, Friant Water Users

Steve Chedester, Exchange Contractors

Barry Bedwell, California Grape & Tree Fruit League

Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau Federation

Tom Nassif, Western Growers Association

Manuel Cunha, Nisei Farmers League

Andy Souza, Fresno Community Food Bank

Arturo Rodriguez, United Farm Workers President

Gabriel Agustin, Farmworker

Janie Fleming, Ag and Industrial Supply


“And the audience was just my six daughters and their husbands.”


“I know that California is very complicated,” said Del Bosque; “water is very complicated in California. “ I hope they did get the message; it is not easy to understand. But we have some very capable agricultural leaders there who all contributed to this event.”


“I think they got a crash course in California water and Ag,” reflected Del Bosque. “One important thing I came away with is the President said that California is very important to the nation, Ag in particular. I think he has a great awareness and respect for what we do for the country in agriculture here.”

“He certainly mentioned that he and his wife, Michelle, are into eating healthy food,” Del Bosque commented, “and I told him that we don’t just grow food in California; we grow healthy food. And I think he took that with him.”


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The President’s trip was brief and very structured, but at one point, Del Bosque and Maria Gloria were invited to join the President and the Governor in the presidential Suburban. “It was a short ride, probably less than 10 minutes. But we got to chat there. It was great: that one-on-one conversation, sitting face-to-face, and the governor there, listening. The President asked me about my life, so I told him a little bit about it. And he mentioned that during the press conference in the field.”

In his speech, President Obama remarked that Joe told him there are three things that make farming work California: soil, water, and people.


“I think the President understands,” continued Del Bosque. “He heard the message of what the potential losses are from some of our agricultural leaders. And I even mentioned that there are far-reaching losses—not just the loss of the communities, the jobs—but loss of food too.”


“The President heard a lot of things; whether they all registered and how well he understood it is hard to say,” Del Bosque remarked. “Because a lot of times, when people come from the city to the country, they don’t know what they are seeing, and sometimes they don’t know the language that we tell them. For instance, President Obama made a mistake in his speech: instead of saying “aqueduct”, he said “aquifer”.

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Joe Del Bosque


“So, when people come from the city like that, you don’t know whether they are really understanding it. I’m hoping he did, but certainly we are going to keep after this, pursue this, to make sure that he understood.”


Del Bosque also thinks this event puts a great deal of pressure on the Governor to do something.


Del Bosque gave careful thought to his own role, “I always try to bring up the impact on farmers and farmworkers because I feel that I don’t just represent farmers; I represent farmworkers and the communities, so that’s what I bring to the table.


“I don’t try to propose solutions. That is for the water guys; they know those things. My job is to say, ‘What is the effect on the Valley and communities?’ So, I always try to bring that approach.”


Del Bosque summed it up, “It was such a great experience today and for the whole week because I was involved in the preparations since last Saturday.”


So, quite an experience!”





President Obama Coming to Fresno to Witness Drought and Possibly Offer Solutions


Obama Speaking
President Obama to visit Fresno Feb. 14

Ag leaders are hailing the planned Feb. 14 visit of President Barack Obama to Fresno to view the effect of the severe drought crisis facing the state.

Manuel Cunha
Manuel Cunha

Manuel Cunha, Jr., President of Nisei Farmers League, told California Ag Today, “I appreciate that he is coming.” Cunha credits the President’s visit to all the efforts of elected officials, their letters, and the governor’s emergency drought declaration, but he particularly praises the Water Rally in Sacramento held on January 16, 2014. Cunha said, “The rally grabbed the greatest amount of press and importance and included all of the cultures being impacted.” Cunha believes the President realizes that things have to change and that he needs to come here to the number one food chain in the world.


“I think it’s great that the President is visiting the Valley,” said Mario Santoyo, Executive Director of the California Latino Water Coalition and Assistant General Manager of the Friant Water Authority. “Over the past several years, there has been a great need to have the engagement of the federal government, and ultimately the buck stops at the President.” Santoyo anticipates that the national media covering the President’s visit will highlight how bad the situation is in the Valley.


Mario Santoyo 2
Mario Santoyo

“Hopefully he will have the opportunity to meet with city officials, farmers and, most importantly, see the impact on the West Side in terms of fallowed land and lost jobs,” Santoyo said. “We are anxious to participate with him in whatever form he would like.”


“I find it interesting that the President’s visit will be the day after the major drought discussion at the Word Ag Expo in Tulare. One person that I know will be part of the President’s agenda is the top federal official regarding water in the state, David Murillo, Mid-Pacific Regional Director of the U.S. Dept. of the Interior. Murillo will be on our panel in Tulare—the day before the President visits.”


David Murillo
David Murillo

Santoyo thinks once the President visits the Valley, he will understand the tremendous impact of the current crisis, “and it will allow him to work with the Senate and the House in coming up with some legislation within the scope of the biological opinion and some of the Endangered Species Act Issues.”


Similarly, Cunha stated, “As President of the United States, he can make things happen by issuing a federal declaration which helps all of our communities; it helps the farmers and farmworkers, and it helps to get the food moving without asking if people are citizens or not. There are a lot of things we can do now, so we don’t have to have people leaving their homes and schools because there is no food.”