State's agricultural board echoes farmer concerns about bullet train
The strong push to begin building California's bullet train by one branch of state government is generating blow back from another branch, as powerful agriculture interests continue to raise concerns about the impact the project will have in the Central Valley.
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture voted Tuesday to send a letter to rail authority Chairman Dan Richard, asserting that the bullet train agency had failed to properly address the agricultural industry's concerns.
A particular concern is the proposed high-speed rail route, which at various points veers out of highway and utility corridors into farmland, the letter says.
The route has generated opposition up and down the Central Valley from farmers and major agriculture interests who accuse the rail authority of violating the state’s environmental review process. Gov. Jerry Brown, who is pushing the project, is seeking legislation that would limit environmental lawsuits that could delay construction.
Last week, farm bureaus in Madera and Merced counties filed suit against the state, seeking a halt to the start of construction planned for later this year.
Craig McNamara, agriculture board president and an organic walnut grower near Davis, said farmers' concerns could be relieved if communications were improved.
The letter called on the authority to create an “office of ombudsman for agricultural impacts” and to revive an agricultural working group that could help mitigate some of the project's impacts on agriculture.
-- Ralph Vartabedian
Image: Rendering of California's proposed bullet train. Credit: California High Speed Rail Authority