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February 13, 2014

Obama's visit to Merced County a few hours away

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit a farm outside of Los Banos this afternoon and officials and town residents are hopeful he can deliver relief from the regions most severe drought in 40 years.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit a farm outside of Los Banos this afternoon and officials and town residents are hopeful he can deliver relief from the regions most severe drought in 40 years.

“Firsthand information is always the best and I’m glad he’s coming,” Mayor Mike Villalta said. “Hopefully he can enact legislation to help the drought situation in California,”

Air Force One is scheduled to touch down in the Valley at 2:30 p.m. at Fresno Yosemite International Airport, and at 3:15 p.m. Obama is scheduled to participate in a roundtable discussion with community leaders at San Luis Water Facility in Firebaugh.

According to the White House’s daily press schedule, the president will tour a Los Banos farm at 4:15 p.m., followed by remarks at 4:30 p.m. The president’s visit will be attended by a few hand-picked locals. His visit is not open to the general public.

He arrives back at Fresno Yosemite after 5 p.m. and departs at 5:35 p.m. An hour later, he is to arrive in Palm Springs, where he will later meet with the king of Jordan.

Los Banos resident Joaquin Mantano said he’s happy the president is coming town.

“The little towns are overlooked all throughout the country,” Mantano said.

He said he believes Obama will help ease the drought situation.

Councilman Scott Silveira, who operates a dairy, said it is a unique thing for the president to visit the outskirts of Los Banos, but he is cautiously optimistic about relief being delivered to farmers.

“I’m optimistic but I’m not holding my breath,” Silveira said. “We’re in a real drought now, but before we were in a man-made drought because of the Delta smelt,” Silveira said.

He said he knows of drought relief bills in Congress and he’s hopeful that the president will sign them.

Silveira said farmers and dairymen are making tough decisions to conserve water.

“We’ve become more and more efficient at what we do. At this point guys are talking about how much acreage they’re not going to farm. I’m concerned about water from my cows, which feed us, which feeds the country really,”

Rep. Jim Costa, a Fresno Democrat, will arrive with Obama aboard Air Force One, as will California's two senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Both are Democrats.

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