TULARE, Calif. (KGET) — Lawmakers and local industry leaders gathered in Tulare County to mark the start of the 2023 World Ag Expo.

The expo comes as Congress looks to reauthorize the Farm Bill with Republicans in control of the House and Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy leading the chamber as Speaker.

Crowds gathered early here at the World Ag Expo amid heightened political significance for lawmakers in attendance.

“I’m proud of being the Speaker from the Valley, the first to ever have the opportunity. And I take those Valley values and understanding directly to the table,” Kevin McCarthy said.

McCarthy highlighted the importance of agriculture in the Central Valley and offered a few political puns.

“I pride myself on what grows here. The pistachios, the walnuts, the grapes. Nobody grows more nuts than this Valley than Sacramento and Washington,” McCarthy said.

While the World Ag Expo always draws tens of thousands, this year there is increased political attention as Congress prepares to update the Farm Bill for the first time in 5 years.

“We’re going to work on this Farm Bill. We’re going to put policies in place where we can take a 400% increase in 2035,” Glenn Thompson said.

McCarthy and Hanford Congressman David Valadao were joined Tuesday by a bi-partisan group of Congressmen including Chairman of the House Agriculture committee Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania to hear directly from local farmers, ranchers, growers and producers.

“It was a great opportunity to have members from both sides of the aisle, from across the country here in one spot to be able to listen,” Valadao said.

Valadao said while talks have just begun, it’s possible the GOP-led House agriculture committee will seek to tamp down spending from the 2018 Farm bill, something Central Valley Congressman Jim Costa says will be hotly debated.

“Baseline funding is going to be a critical part of a farm bill. It’s always been a debate among Republicans and Democrats as to revenue and expenditures,” Jim Costa said.

Meanwhile, Valadao and Bakersfield Assemblyman Vince Fong, who also attended the expo Tuesday, continued to push back on Governor Gavin Newsom and President Joe Biden on water policies.

“We need to increase pumping significantly and, of course, we need to be investing in the water infrastructure to store that,” Fong said.

Tuesday marked the first session in what lawmakers are calling the farm bill listening tour as Congress looks to pass a major piece of legislation.