After Facebook fury, some farmers want Tulare's mayor out

TULARE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones is adamant that he is not anti-agriculture.

In a recent heated debate with another person on Facebook, he says he was merely addressing longstanding problems with the industry when he wrote in part quote: "Ag strips the natural resources and contaminates our ground water and air. Ag causes asthma and valley fever, cancer and kills bees."

Jones says he engaged in the conversation with the woman after she claimed the ag industry in California had been obliterated, in part blaming Governor Jerry Brown for the various troubles farmers face.

Jones disagreed with the notion that ag is dying.

"She kept saying that 'You're anti-ag,'" Jones said. "And I'm like 'No.' That's when I told her, 'You're obviously having a conversation with yourself because I'm not saying that I'm anti-ag.' If you've been part of ag, you know that these are the issues that ag, through technology and innovation, have always been trying to improve and they will continue to try to improve them."

But Jones says his words were taken out of context, and his broader message was missed, when someone else posted his comments on the popular Facebook group called My Job Depends on Ag.

There has since been a tremendous response, denouncing Jones' comments as uneducated and unappreciative of the vital role of agriculture to Tulare's way of life.

Farmer Xavier Avila says so many people in Tulare either directly or indirectly depend on the dominant industry.

"Hollywood's known for filmmaking, Detroit's known for carmaking, and Tulare's known for agriculture," Avila said. "So when you have a representative of the town that represents agriculture, they should represent what we do here."

Avila says farmers like him will be out in full force at the next council meeting, asking councilmembers to consider replacing Jones as mayor.

"He's kind of like the CEO of the town, and our product is agriculture here, let's face it," Avila said. "How can you have a CEO or spokesman that speaks against that?"

Avila felt Jones' words were a total condemnation of the ag industry.

But Jones says the controversy is just another attempt to remove him as mayor, and that his supporters still have his back.

In order to have his mayor title stripped, Tulare's city manager says a councilmember would have to make a motion to put it on a council meeting agenda, and then the majority of councilmembers would then have to vote to give the title to someone else.
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