Saturday, March 14, 2009

Farmers Lead a Bid to Create 2 Californias

After nearly 90 years on the farm, Virgil Rogers has suffered through all manner of agricultural agita, from colicky cows to oscillating milk prices to drought, both past and present. But Mr. Rogers’s newest source of consternation, he says, is some fellow Californians. “Those Hollywood types don’t have any idea what’s going on out here on the farms,” said Mr. Rogers, a retired dairyman from Visalia, the county seat in a Central Valley region where cows far outnumber people. So it is that in recent weeks Mr. Rogers, whose previous political involvement amounted to little more than writing a check to a favored candidate — has suddenly become a leader in a secessionist movement bent on cleaving California in two. But while the plan is not new — the idea of two Californias has been floated dozens of times — the motivations and geographical scissor-work are. Frustrated by what they call uninformed urban voters dictating faulty farm policy, Mr. Rogers and the other members of the movement have proposed splitting off 13 counties on the state’s coast, leaving the remaining 45, mostly inland, counties as the “real” California. The reason, they say, is that people in those coastal counties, which include San Francisco and Los Angeles, simply do not understand what life is like in areas where the sea breezes do not reach. “They think fish are more important than people, that pigs are treated mean and chickens should run loose,” said Mr. Rogers, who said he hitched a ride in 1940 to Visalia from Oklahoma to escape the Dust Bowl, with his wife and baby son in tow. “City people just don’t know what it takes to get food on their table.” The final straw for folks like Mr. Rogers was Proposition 2, a ballot measure in November that banned the tight confinement of egg-laying hens, veal calves and sows. While many food activists and politicians in the state hailed the vote as proof of consumers’ increasing interest in where their food comes from, the proposition’s passage has angry farmers and their allies wanting to put the issue of secession to a vote, perhaps as soon as 2012...NY Times

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