Members of Congress from Fresno and Oakland visit Valley farm operations

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- The two members of Congress, both Democrats got an up-close look at Valley farming operations, they also had some criticism for President Trump's farm, trade and immigration policies.

Valley Congressman TJ Cox brought Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland to tour the Fowler Packing Company plant, where the tangerine harvest is winding down.

Lee chairs the House task force on Poverty and Opportunity. Cox is the vice chair. Lee says she was impressed with company efforts to retrain, rather than replace workers in a highly automated environment.

"What people need to work in a healthy environment, a safe, healthy clean environment and make good wages is what I've seen here," Lee said. "So I think this is really an example of good, corporate ag businesses."

But a shortage of workers for these jobs remains a problem, and Congressman Cox blames Trump administration immigration policies.

"The problem with immigrants is we don't have enough of them. And we are talking about legal immigrants obviously," Cox said. "We don't have enough to meet our workforce needs, our community needs."

While Lee represents an urban district, and Cox a heavily rural district, both areas have high poverty rates. Lee says the Trump administrations efforts to impose work requirements on food stamp recipients, and repeal the affordable care act are among policies that will hurt the poor.

"All of the quality of life issues that we believe would help end poverty they are going in the opposite direction," she said.

Congressman Cox said the Trump administrations trade policies and tariffs hurt the Valley's farm economy.

"This administrations inane trade policies are being felt intently in the Central Valley," he said. "You talk to any farmer or producer and they have been devastated."

Putting politics aside, Grant Parnagian, the executive vice president of Fowler Packing's farm operation said it's good to let members of Congress see how Valley agriculture works.

"It's important for us for them just to come out and see what we are doing, what's going on," Parnagian said. "Some of the issues we are faced with, whether its water, labor, pesticide regulations."

Following their visit to Fowler Packing, representatives Cox and Lee also met with farmers in Kings County and visited a Head Start program for migrant farmworker children in Hanford.
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