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California Gov. Jerry Brown visits drought-stricken region, calls for political compromise

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TULARE, Calif. - Gov. Jerry Brown visited California's drought-stricken agricultural heartland on Wednesday and called on Republicans and Democrats in Congress to strike a compromise that will benefit the region and nation.

As part of his busy schedule of stops in the Central Valley, Brown met with farmers at a breakfast and briefly walked the midway of the 47th Annual World Ag Expo in Tulare, a massive farm show where he attracted attention from curious onlookers as he answered questions from reporters.

Brown said bickering among federal lawmakers over drought aid accomplishes nothing.

"They like to fight, and now they're fighting," Brown said. "That doesn't help farmers, doesn't help California, doesn't help the country."

Brown's visit to California's agriculture region came after he declared a drought emergency in January and before President Barack Obama visits Fresno on Friday.

Brown's reference to political bickering involved a drought measure proposed by three Central Valley Republicans that was approved by the House last week largely along party lines. It would reallocate water from the San Joaquin Delta to farmers south in the Central Valley and stop efforts to restore the San Joaquin River, which now runs dry a short distance west of Friant Dam.

In response, California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both Democrats, proposed legislation that would pour $300 million into emergency aid and drought relief projects, upgrading city water systems and water conservation.

It also would speed up environmental reviews of water projects and allow operational flexibility to state and federal officials wanting to move water south from the delta to San Joaquin Valley farms.

Brown, whose administration supports the bill proposed by the Democrats, said he is doing what he can to find middle ground, rather than exploiting the drought as a chance to throw "cheap rhetorical missiles" at the other side.

"Look, if anybody can get it done, I can get it done," said Brown. "I'm working night and day to achieve it." He did not elaborate on those efforts.

Brown said the president will view devastation brought on by the drought and recognize the need for the federal government to invest in water projects, improving water quality and technology. Brown said the farmers he met over breakfast expressed their frustration, which he shares.

"When you're in a drought, you're in a drought," he said. "From biblical times there are plagues and there are droughts, and we have to learn how to live with them."

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