Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones is facing the wrath of the farming community after saying on social media that agriculture is damaging to the environment and public health.
A screen shot of his comments was shared Friday on the Facebook page My Job Depends on Ag. And it didn't take long for the page's loyal followers to respond. By early Friday afternoon, the post had more than 400 comments and had been shared more than 300 times.
Some called for his ouster, while others said he was ignorant for slamming an industry that is the backbone of Tulare County's economy. The county is one of the top agricultural producers in the state, whose crop value was more than $6 billion in 2016.
What set people off was this comment by Jones: "You're having a conversation with someone in your head. Ag strips the natural resources and contaminates our ground water and air. Ag causes asthma and valley fever, cancer and kills bees. You can't educate me. You're trained. You can share with me what you've trained to think. We can debate the difference between what you think and what I think."
Jones, who was selected to be mayor in 2016, said his comments were part of a broader conversation about agriculture and the challenges farmers face in the state. He said the exchange took place with a Facebook friend.,
"My opinion was that ag is very healthy in the state," he said in an interview Friday.. "It has its issues and I listed some of those issues."
Jones also said he isn't anti-agriculture.
"I do believe that responsible farmers are doing what they can to fix the problems," he said.
What Jones didn't know was that his Facebook friend tagged her brother in the conversation. Her brother is Erik Wilson, a farmer in Dos Palos, who also is one of the founders of the My Job Depends on Ag group.
Wilson said the reason he shared the comment by Jones is that he wanted the group's 81,000 members to know how this particular public official felt about agriculture.
"I was aghast that the mayor of Tulare would say such things," Wilson said. "I wanted to let people know that people in public positions who are willfully ignorant or purposely ignorant seek to undermine ag and say things that are not factually correct."
Theresa Sheridan's comments were typical of many of the posts: "Good job Erik, this guy has no business being mayor of any city since he can't hold his tongue, let alone Tulare. I'm guessing the city council may have some input on this conversation. Can anyone tag city council members in this post and invite them to the group?"
Others were more upfront. Joseph Martinez wrote: "Kick him out of office!!!!! He's a disgrace to his position and people. If it wasn't for AG in that area, there would be no jobs and no mayor needed!! Just my opinion."
There was at least one person who agreed with Jones.
"He is correct," wrote Rodger Savory. "He may be unpopular for speaking the truth but he is correct. Now the question becomes how do we acknowledge the truth and rethink ag to become regenerative ag? Building soils adding water to the soil and capturing carbon in life filled healthy soils."