California lawmakers too often come to Sacramento with preconceived ideas. They arrive with a partisan and black-and-white view of complex issues. They give lip service to learning and fairness when the reality is they already have staked out their positions, which unsurprisingly tend to align with the special interests who put them in office. Their time in office becomes purely an exercise in confirmation bias and partisanship.

Against this backdrop, it is refreshing to see Assemblyman Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) taking steps that indicate an open-mindedness all too rare in the Capitol.

Last month, Rivas was named Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee; he immediately announced plans to tour farms up and down California.

The grandson of a farmworker, Rivas says he understands the important and interconnected relationship between farmers, farmworkers, community and the local economy.

In his news release, Rivas said:

“My district is known as the ‘salad bowl of the world because our farms grow so much of the fresh produce that our nation and world rely upon to eat. From big growers to small family farms, the health of California’s agriculture industry is critically important. As incoming chair of the Agriculture Committee, I pledge to be a strong voice for farmers, farmworkers, and consumers across our state. 

“My connection to California’s farms is deeply personal. My grandfather was a farmworker, and I was raised in farmworker housing in San Benito County. I saw firsthand how a thriving farm can strengthen a whole community, and I saw the good that can result when farmers and farmworkers work together in mutual cooperation.”

Hopefully, Rivas will bring this perspective to the dais in the next legislative session and bring his colleagues out of the dark ages. For too long, Democrats have demonized farmers because they are still stuck in the 1950s-60s.

It is encouraging that Rivas has an opportunity to bring a new generation of thinking to Sacramento that can help save California farmers, workers and the economy.  Farmers have been unfairly attacked for decades. They need someone like Rivas who can find ways to balance various needs and stem the tide of farms moving to other states and Mexico.