September 11, 2019

Josh Harder: Giving a Megaphone to the Ag Community

U.S. Representative Harder represents California’s 10th Congressional District, located in California’s Central Valley covering Stanislaus County and parts of San Joaquin County

As a freshman Democratic congressman, Rep. Josh Harder came into office with a big job to do. Harder’s district is one of seven in California that Democrats successfully flipped during the 2018 elections. His district covers California’s Central Valley, including Stanislaus County and parts of San Joaquin County. While Harder is new to politics, he is no stranger to this agriculturally-rich area.

Harder is a fifth-generation Central Valley resident and has been surrounded by agriculture his entire life. His great-great-grandfather joined a wagon train with the intention of finding gold but settled 50 miles short of his destination in Manteca, Calif., instead to become a peach grower. With California’s Mediterranean climate, quality soil and plentiful water, Harder’s great-great-grandfather could not pass on this opportunity to start a life and a new profession.

“I really grew up understanding the importance of agriculture through the valley and the contributions that have been made,” said Harder. “Everyone in the country eats our food but doesn’t understand how or where it comes from.”

Prior to becoming a politician, he began his career in the private sector as an investor where he worked to create jobs and grow businesses. Through this venture, he took his passion for agriculture, meshed it with his devotion to service and traveled to both Kenya and Uganda to help small farmers gain access to funding.

“If there is one value my parents instilled in me, it’s service. I’ve always worked in and around issues of economic development,” Harder stated.

He earned his public policy and business degree from Harvard, and shortly after, began teaching business at Modesto Junior College. As someone who takes pride in community involvement, Harder believes the best way to provide service to his community is through politics.

When asked at what point he realized that he was destined to be in Congress, Harder answered, “It was 2017 and I was looking across an area that I felt was ignored. One of my jobs in Washington is to remind people that California is more than just San Francisco and Los Angeles. I think we needed to do a better job of getting the voice of the Central Valley out in Washington.”

After getting elected, he endeavored to become the change he wanted to see. As a proud member of the House Agriculture Committee, Harder aims to give a megaphone to the ag community—especially in the district he represents, where one of every three employment opportunities come directly or indirectly from the agriculture industry.

Harder has also worked hard to develop strong relationships with farmers in his district, including several Western Growers members. Not only does he listen to farmers’ most pressing concerns, but he makes it one of his priorities to address them when in Washington.

While Harder has an extensive list of issues to address, some of the problems he is prioritizing include water, trade and immigration.

“We need to make sure we are creating enough water infrastructure to survive,” he said. “The droughts as we know are around the corner so we need to work at maintaining our agricultural productivity and success.”

Following his words with actions, Harder announced his SAVE Water Resources Act to address the Central Valley’s water needs. This bill increases storage opportunities, spurs innovation and makes long overdue investments in the currently aging water infrastructure.

Harder noted the damage the trade war is doing to the ag community, adding that his district is one of the most productive ag regions in the world.

He also recognizes the need for laborers, which is why he is working to tackle the immigration issue. “About 70 percent of our farmers are faced with a labor shortage at the moment, he said. “We have to be able to allow people the chance to contribute to our communities and make sure that our agriculture community remains as vibrant as it is today.”

Harder vows to continue to address these issues, doing everything he can to strengthen the agricultural foundation within the Central Valley.

“I look at my region and see so much opportunity and promise,” he said.