Your participation needed more than ever

By David Strecker, SJFB President 

My first two columns have touched on the subject of urban and rural interaction. In mid-August a huge problem in each of the urban areas of San Joaquin County was about to be brought to Holt, Calif., on Roberts Island, in the Delta.

In 2017, homelessness in San Joaquin County was just over 1550 people. Currently, the number of people living on the streets is slightly over 2,600. This is not something that only San Joaquin County cities are dealing with. It is a sensitive topic of discussion throughout the United States, but California is front and center in the number of people living on the streets. It is an unfortunate fact this is not fixed by simply finding an individual a job and helping them to get back on their feet. A majority of the individuals living on the streets are there because of their drug dependencies. Where there is a drug problem, there is a crime problem.

At the August San Joaquin Farm Bureau Board of Directors meeting, the San Joaquin Farm Bureau was notified by Supervisor Tom Patti, that the old Holt Elementary school was going to be looked at as a potential site for a homeless/rehab shelter. This is something that the board took very seriously and wanted more information. Over the next couple orsof days, a presentation was made to the media at Holt Elementary, and the locals became aware of what was being proposed.

The Roberts-Union Farm Center quickly scheduled a meeting with Supervisor Patti. At the meeting, the residents clearly stated their concerns to the proposed facility housing 1,500 people. SJFB was proud to see that not only the locals attended and commented, but members from across the county participated.

A homeless shelter in the AG Zone is a bad idea. Holt School is the perfect example of why it would not work. Narrow roads, lack of essential services and the health concerns to locals are just a few. Out of sight, out of mind is not a solution to this growing problem. Members from The Roberts-Union Farm Center followed up by attending the San Joaquin Continuum of Care meeting. This is a committee that has been tasked with finding solutions to homelessness.

The thought of a shelter at Holt Elementary has now been recognized as a terrible idea by county officials. The SJFB board is in contact with the entire board of supervisors. We are requesting to be part of this discussions to find a solution to the homelessness problem of San Joaquin County and not let it be dumped in our backyards. Sending people far away from the hospitals and social services they need, to the AG Zone, would not help with their problems.

This was a perfect example of many coming together to stand as one voice. Roberts Union Farm Center quickly mobilized themselves utilizing social media, email, and a few phone calls. SJFB participated and brought the situation to the entire ag communities’ attention of San Joaquin County. Roberts-Union showed the importance of standing together. We have faced these sorts of bad ideas in the past and will continue to face them in the future.

SJFB is currently still opposing the idea of expanding Mt. Trashmore (Forward Landfill). It was unfortunate that it was ever placed where it was. It will be a devasting tragedy if it is allowed to continue.

We have been asking for your help over the last couple of months in standing together as an ag community opposing the expansion of Mt. Trashmore. Much like Holt School, the locals have responded with attending Farm Bureau meetings and board of supervisors’ meetings stating their opposition to the proposed expansion. The rural residents of San Joaquin County need to realize that over 70% of the garbage placed in Mt. Trashmore comes from outside our county.

The garbage trucks travel the backroads as well as the major highways entering our county. In both cases these truck travel right through the AG Zone before reaching Mt. Trashmore. This harvest is the first where FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) is being fully enforced. Garbage is continually flying out of these trucks and spreading garbage on the roads and into our fields. SJFB will be fighting this expansion in a hearing with the board of supervisors in the end of September. It never fails, the worst adversity we face in ag always seem to be during harvest. But if we can stand together, we can defeat the expansion of Mt. Trashmore.

We will continue to face these sorts of challenges in the future. I, along with the SJFB board of directors and staff will continue to lead the fight for the ag community. Success will be determined with your involvement. Your participation is needed now, more than ever.