Kevin Cookingham looks to solve problems before they threaten farmers

We are now four weeks from Election Day. As we “Raise the Rural Vote,” we’re highlighting congressional races where ag is king. California’s 16th congressional district is in the central portion of the state and includes parts of Fresno.

Democrat Jim Costa has held the seat since 2004 but his Republican opponent Kevin Cookingham grew up on a farm, so his fight for agriculture is a personal one.

It is Cookingham’s first time running for office and he hopes to earn a spot representing California’s 16th congressional district. He says that if he is elected he would work to solve problems before they threaten farmers.

“I think so many times we go, ‘we’ve got to get something through Congress,’ well sometimes that takes years, a Farm Bill is every five to six years, and a lot of times you can’t wait five to six years. People need help immediately,” he said. “So, it’s a matter of working with the state many times and the local governments to make sure those fixes can be resolved quickly, and I’m always looking ahead. Again, such and such happened, if there is another pandemic, if this pandemic continues to grow, whatever the situation is you better have a backup plan ready to go and people ready to step in.”

He says that his daughter and son-in-law raise orchard fruits and maintain three full-time staffers to deal with regulatory compliance.

In California, he says that environmental regulations are especially strict.

“This is actually a national security issue in my mind, and our big issues here in California is we’ve got the state government fighting against our own agriculture and farming communities by not allowing water into these areas that they used to allow water into.”

Cookingham also thinks more competition will improve trade inequities and lower rural healthcare costs.

“We need to get back to common sense help for people,” he said. “It’s so difficult for people, especially individuals, to get the kind of insurance they need at a fair price. We need to start banding together and...we need to have competition across state lines, across the country.”

He believes that farmers should get involved in the policy making process.

“Here’s one of my fixes, we need to get the farmers that are now in their 60’s, that have older children, that know how to run the farms, to run for office. Can you imagine in California, if we had 50 percent or more in the legislature that were farmers... We would have a little bit of power in what happens in California, as well as across the nation.”

During his campaign, he is focusing on three key issues: law enforcement, agriculture, and small businesses.

For full interview, click HERE.