President Donald Trump was in Bakersfield for a short visit Wednesday to sign a Presidential Memorandum to commit more water to San Joaquin Valley farmers. He spoke to an invitation-only crowd of about 2,000 people.
The event at Meadows Field Airport drew high schoolers wearing Future Farmers of America jackets, Kern County farmers, and Republican supporters, many in signature red caps. Trump told the crowd his interest in water was piqued in 2016 while driving down Highway 99 with Tulare Congressman Devin Nunes.
“I said 'what's going on? It's too bad you have a drought,'” Trump recalled. “He said, ‘No, we don't have a drought, they won't allow us to have water in the state of California.’ That's how this all started.”
State laws do limit water allocations; however, California only last year came out of a seven-year drought that devastated parts of the Valley. Also, parts of the San Joaquin Valley have more recently been suffering a moderate drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report.
Trump’s memorandum adds support to a biological opinion released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in October that will allow for pumping more water out of the Bay Delta.
“Going forward, we'll use the latest science and most advanced technology to monitor and adjust water distribution in real time, ensuring that the environment remains protected,” said Trump, though he did not clarify how the government plans to accomplish this.
This comes a day after a water forum in Tulare County where Congressman Nunes met with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Jason Phillips, CEO of the Friant Water Authority. Nunes and Bernhardt were both at the Bakersfield event, along with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Congressman Tom McClintock, Congressman Markwayne Mullin and former congressman David Valadao.
While the signing was not a campaign event, the visit is Trump’s first time back in the San Joaquin Valley since he ran for president in 2016. According to his campaign website, President Trump has not planned any other California visits.
Other candidates have made a point to stop in the Valley over the last few weeks. Former Mayor of New York Mike Bloomberg was in Fresno two weeks ago and Senator Bernie Sanders will be in Bakersfield on Friday.