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Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, dockside at the Port of West Sacramento on Monday. Seen with him are U.S. Representative Doris Matsui (left) and Yolo Supervisor Mike McGowan (partially screened) who is also chair of the port commission (photo by ERIC HARDING, www.ebharding.com)

NEWS-LEDGER – SEPT. 28, 2011

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture paid a call on West Sacramento on Monday morning, as part of a White House effort to push for passage of the president’s “American Jobs Act” stimulus proposal.

Secretary Tom Vilsack joined a handful of leaders from the region for a dock-side press conference at the Port of West Sacramento. At that agriculturally-linked facility, he spoke of the value of farming exports and the importance of creating jobs both in agriculture and beyond.

“There is no question about the value of California agriculture, which is unmatched. And trust me, as a native of Iowa, that is hard for me to admit,” Vilsack told the crowd. He extolled the value of trade – including the shipment of farm products.

   “Every billion dollars of trade generates 8,400 jobs here in the U.S,” said Vilsack. “Here in the U.S. . . we have a trade surplus in agriculture, and we’re excited and bullish about the future of American agriculture, and about continuing to grow these exports with the passage of more free trade agreements.”
But, “in order to get this economy moving again, it’s going to take more than agriculture,” he added. “We want to accelerate it.”

That’s where the American Jobs Act comes in. President Obama has urged Congress to “pass it now.”

“The president believes that by proposing bipartisan ideas, he can get quick action,” said Vilsack. The proposed legislation includes a payroll tax cut for small businesses and help building highways, railways, bridges, dams and ports, he added. There would be tax incentives for businesses who hire vets or people who have been out of work for at least six months.

“It would mean about 50,000 construction workers currently out of work in California today would go back to work.”

The legislation would also help keep teachers teaching, and support firefighting jobs, classroom modernization and other goals, said Vilsack.

The proposed programs have been “paid for” with existing revenues, he said, and “it doesn’t add to the deficit, because (the president) also understands the importance of putting our fiscal house in order.”

Yolo County Supervisor Mike McGowan spoke before Vilsack, saying, “we do strongly believe in the American Jobs Act – it’s critical to our success. We have people here, ready to work.”

“Our top priority now is adding jobs,” echoed Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui, who will soon replace fellow Democrat Mike Thompson in representing West Sacramento, due to redistricting.

West Sacramento mayor Christopher Cabaldon spoke briefly, noting that “you don’t see a lot of ships here today.”

“This is a port that handles a lot of bulk commodities,” said Cabaldon. “Ships are getting bigger and bigger, and we need to deepen our channels.”

To deepen the Port of West Sacramento’s waterways, the city has been looking for federal help with the project to help it accept more of these big ships. That’s the kind of federal infrastructure work that would pay back dividends, he said.

Copyright News-Ledger 2011

Steve Marschke

Steve Marschke