Roelof van Ark Meets With Valley Agriculture
California High Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark spoke today at the Madera County Farm Bureau’s regional conference and pledged to improve outreach to the agricultural community:
“We need to do a better job of communicating,” Roelof van Ark, CEO of the High-Speed Rail Authority, said at the Madera County Farm Bureau’s regional conference.
It appears that local farmers had a lot of misconceptions about the trains:
Van Ark acknowledged that the project will disrupt some farmers’ lives, but he said the impact may not be as severe as some think. For example, he said, farmers in other countries with high-speed rail are able to farm near the train’s tracks.
And almond growers who worry that wind generated from the trains will disrupt bees from pollinating don’t need to be concerned, he said. The trains may generate winds of only about 10 mph.
“This is not a tornado,” van Ark said. “But we have not done a very good job of explaining that to people.”
Farmers are also convinced that American agricultural practices are sufficiently different from those in Europe, particularly in scale, that European models of integrating HSR with agriculture won’t work here. I’m skeptical of that – there are surely ways to make this work; it’s not exactly rocket science. That’s not to be dismissive of agriculture, it is an important industry, but these issues can easily be resolved. With van Ark pledging to put together a working group with farmers, we’ll hopefully start to see better coordination.
This matters, since agriculture wields a lot of power in the Valley. With the Valley’s three Republican congressmen – Jeff Denham, Devin Nunes, and Kevin McCarthy – all flirting with outright HSR opposition, keeping agriculture on board is particularly important.