Dear Dairy Herd Readers,

It is no wonder that the approach of high-speed rail brings the kind of questions that have surrounded every major new development from the telephone to the interstate. While other countries have been enjoying high-speed rail for decades, California is leading the way with the first American system. But we aren’t going it alone.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has nearly a dozen agreements with other countries that operate successful high-speed rail systems. And we have found something huge: if done right, high-speed rail can actually be good for agriculture.

High-speed rail will be 100 percent electric powered – electricity that can be 100 percent clean generated. Not only does that mean less dependence on foreign oil, it also means fewer cars spewing emissions into what is already some of the most heavily polluted air in the nation.

High-speed rail stations will revitalize town centers, drawing people and businesses in a way that discourages the sprawl that can leach away prime agricultural land.

High-speed rail will give people who live in the Central Valley an affordable alternative for accessing the state’s metropolitan centers – and then returning home 

There is no way around the simple fact that we have to accommodate a growing population in California. We can expand freeways and airports; some people say we should widen Interstate 5. But a freeway requires significantly more right-of-way than we propose for high-speed rail – which will be 100 feet or less. Conservative estimates translate that to less than 4,000 acres of agricultural land between Merced and Bakersfield that will be affected.

We’re pursuing a better alternative by working directly with the agriculture community.

We must – by law – minimize any impacts to existing land use, including farming and ranching.

Farmers will see their concerns represented in our work going forward, including in the environmental impact report scheduled to come out soon.

We have already agreed with the Federal Railroad Administration to use existing transportation corridors as much as possible to minimize the impact on agricultural land. We are creating a working group to bring the Authority and agriculture even closer together as we move ahead with building a cleaner, faster and safer way to move people in California.

John Diener

Agricultural Advisor to the California High-Speed Rail Authority

Fresno, CA