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January 15, 2020

People Got to Eat, and They Always Will!

U.S. Representative Doug LaMalfa represents California’s 1st Congressional District, located north of Sacramento in California’s Central Valley. Known as a champion for agriculture, LaMalfa is dedicated to addressing agriculture’s most pressing issues.

Meet Doug LaMalfa, a Congressman representing California’s first congressional district who also doubles as a rice farmer. Interestingly, LaMalfa’s life has come full circle. As a native of Oroville, California, a small city serving as the county seat of Butte County, LaMalfa was born into the number one industry in his region, agriculture. Dating back about 110 years, LaMalfa’s great-grandparents emigrated from Sicily to northern California, just south of San Jose, to establish a prune ranch, vineyard and winery. After many successful years of operation, his family ventured into rice farming near Chico in 1931. Considering the LaMalfa family’s extensive history in agriculture, Congressman LaMalfa understood the importance of agriculture at a young age.

In the city of Oroville, agriculture is the backbone of their community, providing a significant portion of the county’s economy. LaMalfa’s appreciation for the industry is considerably similar to Oroville’s appreciation for agriculture. After graduating from secondary school, LaMalfa attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo to earn his degree in agricultural business before returning home to help manage his family’s farming business.

Following the 2000 census, the California State Legislature completed redistricting for the House of Representatives, the State Assembly and the State Senate districts. This presented an open seat in California’s second district, which seemed most ideal for a person with an agriculture background to fill. While other farmers had no desire to occupy the seat, LaMalfa seized the opportunity after toying with the idea for a bit. He completed all three terms allowed by state limit in the state legislature before pursuing membership in Congress, representing California’s First Congressional District.

Throughout LaMalfa’s tenure in politics, he has consistently advocated for agriculture, ascertaining his place in both state and federal agriculture committees. It comes as no surprise that among his top priorities while in office, the most significant is water.

“One of the biggest priorities is increasing our water supply and making sure it’s stable for agriculture,” LaMalfa says. As a champion for proper water usage and adequate water supply, LaMalfa has done his fair share of advocating, especially in his district. He has been known to motivate change, suggesting alternatives to managing water supply; most notably the proposed Sites Reservoir located in Colusa County, a county adjacent to the district he represents. The Sites Reservoir Project Act, originally introduced by Congressman Garamendi and co-sponsored by LaMalfa, provides federal support for not only the construction of Sites Reservoir but also related water infrastructure in Colusa and Glenn Counties. In addition to cosponsoring this bill, LaMalfa has worked tirelessly to secure the future of California’s water supply.

“It’s important that we have the infrastructure to save more water during wet years so we can prepare for the dry ones California sees all too often,” he says.

Aside from water, ag labor has most recently forced its way to the top of LaMalfa’s priority list. Similar to Western Growers, Congressman LaMalfa, along with some of his colleagues, has been trying to move the needle on ensuring this country has a reliable and skilled workforce needed for the viability of American agriculture.

“I’ve enjoyed working with Western Growers over the years as a state legislator and what we’re trying to do here federally as well,” says LaMalfa. His undeniable commitment to a reliable and legal workforce is only a minuscule example of him delivering on his promise to address and solve the agriculture industry’s needs.

When asked what he believes the future of ag to be, his response was, “People got to eat, and they always will!” Currently, the United States is self-sufficient in agriculture, which means it has the means to feed its people with its production. The future of agriculture is reliant on making sure farmers have the means to grow their produce. What makes LaMalfa a unique part of Congress is that he understands the trials and tribulations of being a farmer and while in office, he has the authority to address those issues.

“Part of my job is to make sure we can keep farming, it’s an obligation I have,” he said. Above all else, LaMalfa wants to see a reflection of the value agriculture brings, not only to this country, but to the world.

After a long week of battling in the district and addressing his constituents’ needs, LaMalfa finds serenity in returning home to his farm in Oroville with his family. Living and farming in the same city where he was born and raised, and now represents on a federal level, LaMalfa’s life has come full circle.