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TURLOCK, Calif. -- Congressman Jeff Denham lost his most recent election, however, he is now one of a few in contending to replace Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
According to Bret Manley, Denham's Chief of Staff, the congressman was approached by members of the Trump Administration about replacing Zinke as Interior Secretary.
Denham is said to be very interested and is one of a handful of people being considered.
Who is Jeff Denham?
Jeff Denham is a former Republican member of the California State Senate and currently an outgoing member of Congress, representing CA-District 10.
B.A., Political Science, 1992 - California Polytechnic State University
He's a valley almond farmer and businessman, owning Denham Plastics in Turlock. The business provides plastic harvesting containers for agricultural producers.
Denham is also a 16-year Air Force veteran and received a Meritorious Service Medal for his service in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.
Committees served on as California State Senator
During his tenure as a California State Senator, Denham was part of the agriculture, business, professions and economic development, education and veterans affairs standing committees.
Committees served on in Washington as Representative
During his time in Congress, Denham was part of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, which deals with the economic and safety regulations of railroads. He also participated in committees pertaining to veterans and agriculture.
Jeff Denham's policy positions
Denham has been supported in previous elections by farming organizations like the San Joaquin and Stanislaus County Farm Bureaus.
In 2018, the San Joaquin Farm Bureau noted that Denham's record shows that he's been a good voice for agriculture needs and water issues.
Part of his support was attributed to his understanding of specialty crop growers, like almond growers, and the issues they face with immigration and labor.
His district was particularly vulnerable to the China tariffs and North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations (NAFTA). In NAFTA, it was critical for organizations like the Almond Board of California to have those export markets in Mexico and Canada. Both Stanislaus and San Joaquin County list almonds as a top commodity.
Almond growers have had difficulty mitigating the uncertainty that the tariffs brought to their crop during harvest, especially with China being a large export market for the crop.
“As a longtime almond farmer here in the Valley, I have been a strong and consistent supporter of free and fair trade," Denham said in April statement. "Bad trade practices by nations like China need to be addressed. We need targeted trade policies that allow Valley farmers to create jobs while expanding markets to grow America’s agricultural economy. We need to be negotiating free trade agreements and protecting our farmers from countries that impose baseless phytosanitary restrictions that are used to devalue our perishable commodities.”
Denham would work to ensure that almond growers were included on tariff mitigation packages.
With the congressman's agricultural background, he's been a strong supporter of water storage in California.
His bill, the New WATER Act, was part of America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which authorize funds for new water storage projects. The law provided funds for water projects throughout the western United States, like reservoirs, below ground storage, recycling, and desalination projects.
Denham also added in language that enhanced flood protections for San Joaquin County after levees near Manteca were breached in 2017.
State "water grab"
California's river flow proposal, or State "water grab," is an issue that many farmers consider to be one of the most significant issues California agriculture has ever seen.
The proposal was implemented due to what officials say is an ecological crisis with the Bay Delta's water quality and salmon populations. After the proposal's adoption, farmers have been concerned by the increase in flows for fish that will mean less water for their agricultural needs.
Denham brought multiple federal administrators to observe the impacts of the "water grab", including Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the Acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
After Zinke visited the Don Pedro and New Melones reservoirs, which stand to be impacted by the "water grab," he issued an memo declaring the proposal to an "unacceptable restriction" and that it would have impacts on the Department of Interior's ability to deliver water.
The Bureau of Reclamation, within the Department of Interior, also criticized the proposal for allegedly elevating fish and wildlife purposes over irrigation and domestic purposes.
Denham has been opposed to the river flow proposal and has attempted to use amendment in the House of Representatives to highlight the issue. Denham's district has constituents that rely on water and power from agencies like South San Joaquin Irrigation District, Oakdale Irrigation District, Modesto Irrigation District, and Turlock Irrigaiton District that would be impacted by the river flow proposal.
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