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Historic flooding action praised by California strawberry industry

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California Strawberry Commission worked with lawmakers on behalf of growers affected by this year’s flooding to support executive action and help bring relief to the area and industry

WATSONVILLE, Calif. (Aug. 31 2023) – Earlier this month, California governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to expedite critical work like levee repairs and debris removal to help protect and prepare local communities in anticipation of another possible wet season.

This past March, the Pajaro and Salinas Rivers saw record rainfall, leading to historic flooding and levee failure in the region. The flooding affected nearly five percent of farms in the area with millions in crop, property and equipment damage.

The California Strawberry Commission’s BB #:153596 Public Policy team quickly went to work, highlighting the issue with the state lawmakers and working with former California Agriculture Committee chair and current Assembly Speaker, Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), to convene a special meeting of the Ag Committee to discuss the March floods and the levee breeches.

At that meeting, California strawberry grower and Commission Executive Committee member, Peter Navarro, provided testimony and gave a first-hand account of the levee breech along the Pajaro River and the flooding that caused millions in damage to the strawberry industry.

“I’m thankful for the work of the California Strawberry Commission to highlight the effects of the flooding and work with lawmakers to secure much-needed relief funding, and now executive action, to make the necessary repairs and preparation for upcoming wet seasons,” said Navarro. “The flooding earlier this year was devasting to many California strawberry growers as well as our local communities, which are resilient but still recovering.”

The executive order allows affected communities to accelerate work to restore levee function and river channel capacity degraded by last winter’s storms and floods. It streamlines public agencies’ emergency levee repair and debris removal work and suspends certain laws, regulations and criteria in existing orders – conditioned on agencies complying with specified environmental and resource protection requirements – for emergency levee repair and debris removal projects.

“The much-needed repairs to the Pajaro and Salians River levees have been a long-time coming and beginning these repairs allow growers to focus on producing the high-quality, sustainably grown strawberries that drive local economies and produce 90% of the nation’s strawberries,” said Rick Tomlinson, California Strawberry Commission President.

In addition to working with lawmakers to highlight issues caused by the flooding, the Commission was one of the first on the ground during the floods to get information and resources out to growers and the local community. Working with media and lawmakers, the Commission highlighted the devastation across these areas and pushed for emergency funding to assist in recovery efforts.

Shortly after, Gov. Newsom requested a presidential major disaster declaration from the Biden Administration that allowed resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other government agencies to assist with the recovery.

While recovery is ongoing, the California strawberry crop and supply remains strong. Harvest is ongoing around the state, providing fresh California strawberries year-round. 

About California Strawberry Commission

The California Strawberry Commission is more than 400 strawberry farmers, shippers and processors, all working together to advance strawberry farming for the future of our land and people. Commission programs create opportunities for success through groundbreaking programs focused on workforce training, strawberry production research, and nutrition research. Through science-based information and education, it delivers the good news about sustainable farming practices that benefit the health of people, farms, and communities.