Deputy U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky and Rep. Kevin McCarthy meet with farmers

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U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture was in Bakersfield Friday where he and Congressman Kevin McCarthy held a round table discussion with farmers.

While the meeting was not open to journalists, the leaders told KGET the discussion touched on a multitude of issues, including tariffs, trade agreements, and water.

“We are number one here and we want to be able to maintain it,” McCarthy said. “That’s why I am so grateful that the deputy secretary come here to take the time and to listen and provide feedback to make us stronger.”

McCarthy and Censky spoke about Trump Administration policies they say are benefiting farmers. The pair touted trade proposal, including the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

If approved by Congress, it would, in essence, modify the North American Free Trade Agreement, also known as NAFTA. The U.S.M.C.A includes stricter labor and environmental standards, intellectual property protections, and digital trade provisions.

Censky also spoke highly about a new trade framework agreement between the U.S. and Japan.

“Right now we export about $14 billion of agricultural products to Japan. Six [billion] of that is already duty free, but this either eliminate or reduce the tariffs on another $7 billion of that trade, and that is going to benefit a lot of production here in California, ranging from plums, to prunes and walnuts. It’s going to be really beneficial.”

However, some groups, including the United Farm Workers of America, argue the president’s policies have hurt farm workers.

“The Trump administration has been engaging in many more enforcement actions [including] I-9 audits,” said UFW Vice President Armando Elenes. “This is causing a lot of fear in the farm worker communities. Some are questioning whether they can go to work, drop off their kids, and this is impacting the industry as a whole.”

Censky expressed optimism in the administration’s negotiations with China over tariffs.

“We’re in it for the long term,” he said. “We need to be sure China comes to the table.”

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