(Dec. 16) A.G. Kawamura is eager to protect and promote agriculture, a stand that may help alleviate the state’s financial crisis.

The California secretary of food and agriculture talked about his new role in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration after less than two weeks in the capital.

“The (agriculture) industry is directly tied to the state’s financial position,” Kawamura said. “I am excited that the governor’s position has been that California can have a renaissance, and this can only take place if agriculture has a renaissance.”

Many in the state think that if California is going to make a comeback, agriculture is going to play a major role. But, to do that, it will have to overcome several obstacles.

Kawamura, who has served as president of the Orange County Farm Bureau, chairman of Western Growers and president of the Orange County Agricultural Association, said he was shocked to learn about the public’s view on the state’s economic backbone.

“I was dismayed that the public has forgotten agriculture and its value,” Kawamura said.

He said the department’s duty is to educate the public that every time food and fiber are used, residents of California benefit economically.

Kawamura described the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s mission as centered on protecting and promoting plant and animal safety. The agency and the industry are dependent on each other, he added.

“There are 350 commodity crops here because the department of agriculture provides the infrastructure to operate within,” Kawamura said. “CDFA strives to protect and ensure the stability of the infrastructure; otherwise the grower group will pick up and go to another state.”

Whether it’s orchards of juicy ripe peaches or fields of fluffy white cotton, each commodity plays a crucial role in the state’s economy, he said.

“Having the farming background, I understand how serious the challenges are today and that the ag community is not permanent, and there needs to be a commitment as a state to invest in that infrastructure,” he said.

While Kawamura is optimistic, he said he understands the state’s financial woes.

“We have inherited a tough situation with the budget crisis, and, because of how difficult the task is, there has to be a commitment … from the citizen,” Kawamura said.