Central Valley 'tea party' activists stage farm rally

More than 200 "tea party" activists rallied Sunday in Fresno to show gratitude for donations to help the central San Joaquin Valley's water-starved west side.

The Farmer Relief Rally at the Fresno Fairgrounds was sponsored by the Central Valley Tea Party. It featured songs, speakers and politics. Many speakers said federal policies -- such as those that protect the delta smelt -- must change so that farmers can have more water.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, who spoke at the rally, called it unimaginable that "the people who pick the food are standing in the food lines."

West-side farmers have been struggling with several dry years and environmental restrictions that have reduced water supplies from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Many jobs have dried up, prompting the national call for donations that went out to tea-party groups.

Daniel Blackford, an activist from San Jacinto, Texas, said the educational aspect of the relief effort is critical.

"Today, it's the delta smelt out here," he said. "Tomorrow, it could be some microbe in the water in Tennessee or any of those other states."

Organizers did not have a firm tally of donations on Sunday. Food, clothing and other items packed a corner of the Commerce Building -- most from a truck that arrived from Palm Springs.

Bins throughout the room held contributions walked into the rally. Jared Gordon, coordinator for the Central Valley Tea Party, said several more trucks are expected to arrive this week with donations from other rallies.

Cash donations amounted to about $17,000, Gordon said. Donated food and money will be given to Community Food Bank, while nonfood donations will go to other groups for distribution, he said.