Board says current plans for the high-speed rail system represent an imminent threat to productive farmland.
Source: California Farm Bureau Federation news release
Because of concerns about loss of farmland and impacts on rural communities, the California Farm Bureau Federation said Tuesday it cannot support a planned high-speed rail project in the Central Valley until those issues are resolved.
The Farm Bureau board of directors said current plans for the high-speed rail system represent an imminent threat to productive farmland.
“The high-speed rail system would change the landscape for generations across some of the most productive agricultural counties in the United States,” California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger said. “We understand the need for transportation projects, but we should not needlessly sacrifice food production, family farmers and workers who depend on agricultural jobs.”
Wenger noted that the bond measure authorizing construction of the high-speed rail system stressed the goal to build the system along existing transportation corridors where practical. Instead, the proposed route for high-speed rail cuts through farms and ranches, requires numerous road closures and bisects canals and other water delivery systems.
“A rural road or a canal may look insignificant to a planner studying a map, but those roads and canals support farms, ranches and rural communities,” Wenger said. “The High-Speed Rail Authority has seen farmland as the path of least resistance. But farmers and ranchers are resisting. The authority needs to address the impacts that high-speed rail will force on rural communities.”
Two county Farm Bureaus—in Madera and Merced counties—are plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the environmental review of the Merced-to-Fresno route for the rail project. The Kings County Farm Bureau has joined county officials in expressing concerns about the impact on farmland along the proposed Fresno-to-Bakersfield route.
“In the past, California Farm Bureau has said we support the concept of high-speed rail as long as it conserves irreplaceable farmland, avoids premature conversion of farmland for urban sprawl, and complies with established environmental law. As of now, the proposed system does not meet any of those goals and we can’t support it until it does,” Wenger said.
He noted that high-speed rail was originally described as a way to relieve highway congestion and move commuting workers between homes and jobs. Wenger said the rail authority “should focus for its inaugural line on areas with highly congested roadways serving large numbers of commuters—not in the Central Valley.”
The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 74,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.