Friday, March 13, 2009

The rural (or is it ag?)-urban disconnect in California

Don't miss Malia Wollan's story in today's NYT. The dateline is Visalia, population 91,565, and the headline is "Farmers Lead a Bid to Create Two Californias." Here is an excerpt, which refers to Virgil Rogers, a retired Visalia farmer.

So it is that in recent weeks Mr. Rogers, whose previous political involvement amounted to little more than writing a check to a favored candidate — has suddenly become a leader in a secessionist movement bent on cleaving California in two.

But while the plan is not new — the idea of two Californias has been floated dozens of times — the motivations and geographical scissor-work are. Frustrated by what they call uninformed urban voters dictating faulty farm policy, Mr. Rogers and the other members of the movement have proposed splitting off 13 counties on the state’s coast, leaving the remaining 45, mostly inland, counties as the “real” California.

Here is a quote from Mr. Rogers who arrived in California during the Dust Bowl era:

They think fish are more important than people, that pigs are treated mean and chickens should run loose ... City people just don’t know what it takes to get food on their table.

Read more about Citizens for Saving California Farming Industries, which is behind the secessionist movement. Aspects of this movement reflect the tension between more traditional production agriculture and the "foodie" movement endorsed by the likes of Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Nicholas Kristof here. Note that, consistent with Kristof's suggestion, the Senate Agriculture Committee in California has recently become the Food and Agriculture Committee.

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