Val Dolcini points to a chunk of Mariposite on his desk. “I got that on a visit to Mariposa County,” he explained, one of the 30 county offices he’s overseen as California’s executive director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
Other souvenirs from FSA office visits — bottles of wine, jars of nuts and honey, and bags of rice — line the shelves of Dolcini’s downtown Davis office, which, by the way, sits on land once owned by his family.
Now, though, Dolcini is packing up his various California farm mementos. He and Solveig Monson, his wife of 22 years, are headed to Washington, D.C., so Dolcini can begin his new appointment as administrator of the Farm Service Agency. Oscar Gonzales Jr. will be filling Dolcini’s position in the California agency.
Personally, 2014 has been a transition year for Dolcini and Monson. This past weekend they dropped their only child off at college in Southern California, and they are in the midst of packing up their Davis residence for good.
Davis has been the couple’s home for 20 years — and the Dolcini family has been in Davis for five generations — and Dolcini and Monson expect to return in the future. But with an uncertain timeline for Dolcini’s position, and so many other logistics to consider, the pair decided to sell their home here and buy in Washington. Besides, neither wanted the role of cross-country landlords, Dolcini explained.
Although there are mixed emotions about the move, Dolcini said, “We are looking forward to reconnecting to family and friends back east.” Monson has one sister in New Jersey and another in North Carolina.
And Washington is quite comfortable for the couple, who actually met in the capital when Dolcini was a paralegal and Monson was a graduate student at American University. Their cubicles sat right next to each other.
Monson’s community involvement in Davis — she is the recent Davis High School Grad Night chairperson and a past Davis Little League president, among other positions — will prepare her to become part of her new community. And she has some good professional leads to explore once they get settled in Washington.
Professionally for Dolcini, the new endeavor begins as soon as Tuesday, when he starts his nine-day trek through 15 states, visiting as many FSA county offices as he can along the way. He will listen to the farmers and ranchers — as well as colleagues — across the country “so I can better represent them when I get to Washington.”
While executive director of California’s FSA, Dolcini made it a point to meet with the people he represents, determining what the agency can do to help them. He plans to do the same in his new position, where he will oversee 2,100 FSA offices around the country, with roughly 10,000 employees reporting to him.
On this trip, Dolcini also looks forward to seeing big agricultural production operations in the Midwest — like Nebraska and Kansas; visiting small farms in the Southeast, such as in Arkansas, Mississippi and the Carolinas; and checking in on family farms all across the country.
Dolcini wants to stress about his job, current and future: “When I’ve traveled around California visiting farmers and ranchers,” he’s seen it as a way of helping build the American Dream.
To that end, “Implementation of the Farm Bill programs will be Job One,” when he gets to the capital, Dolcini said. The new bill, signed in February, is complicated and multi-faceted. President Obama “has likened it to a Swiss army knife because it does so much.”
Among other things, the Farm Bill provides disaster assistance, money for school nutrition, money to land grant universities for research, export initiatives and management of national forest land.
“My job as an administrator,” Dolcini said, “is to efficiently administer to both farmers and ranchers and the American taxpayer.”
By offering “opportunities for economic revitalization, building small businesses into bigger ones, establishing viable farming opportunities,” Dolcini sees the FSA as a supplier “of tools and resources (for rural Americans) to build their own version of the American Dream.”
— Reach Tanya Perez at 530-747-8056 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @enterprisetanya