Ag Today Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ag water battle goes viral [Hanford Sentinel]

Seems like everybody is jumping into the red-hot California water debate. Ever since Gov. Jerry Brown announced on April 1 that cities like Hanford and Lemoore would be forced to conserve in a big way to cut the state’s water use by 25 percent, the accusations have been flying, with major non-California blogs, newspapers and pundits jumping into the ring last week and asking whether California agriculture – the largest private source of jobs in Kings County and a $45 billion industry statewide – is sharing the pain. That, in turn, has sent agriculture into full defense mode, with trade and advocacy groups churning out press releases and fact sheets purporting to set the record straight.
Almonds really not that thirsty, supporters say [Stockton Record]
As California moves into the fourth year of a withering drought and Gov. Jerry Brown announces mandatory water use restrictions on the state’s 39 million residents, attention has focused on its thirsty agricultural industry and, in particular, rapidly expanding almond orchards….So how does it feel to become the whipping boy for drought finger pointers? “It doesn’t feel good at all,” said Dave Phippen, an almond grower and processor in the Ripon/Manteca area. “I don’t think it’s fair. I think it’s very much undeserved.” Yes, commercial almond production does take water, the equivalent of 46 to 56 inches of rainfall per year, said Brent Holtz, director of University of California Cooperative Extension for San Joaquin County. But that’s about what many other crops require.
Opinion: Making sense of water [New York Times]
Almost every number used to analyze California’s drought can be debated, but this can be safely said: No level of restrictions on residential use can solve the problem. The solution lies with agriculture, which consumes more than its fair share. That doesn’t mean homeowners can’t and shouldn’t cut back. But according to estimates by the Public Policy Institute of California, more water was used to grow almonds in 2013 than was used by all homes and businesses in San Francisco and Los Angeles put together. Even worse, most of those almonds are then exported — which means, effectively, that we are exporting water. Unless you’re the person or company making money off this deal, that’s just nuts….California grows fruits and vegetables for everyone; that’s a good thing. It would be an even better thing, however, if some of that production shifted to places like Iowa, once a leading grower of produce. That could happen again, if federal policy subsidized such crops, rather than corn, on some of that ultra-fertile land.
Opinion: To respond to California’s drought, we need to follow the facts [Sacramento Bee]
Beware simple reactions to complex issues. If anything has scarred the drought debate, it’s that….For instance, critics of Big Agriculture like to say that farms use 80 percent of water, but sometimes gloss over that that number refers only to water for human purposes. Of California’s total water, about half is devoted to urban and agricultural use, while the other half goes to environmental purposes. “The No. 1 user of water in California are trees in the Sierra Nevada,” says Doug Parker, director of the California Institute for Water Resources….Critics claim that Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory water reductions give farmers a free pass. Yet, last year they took a 30 percent cut in water supplied by water agencies and fallowed some 500,000 acres. This year, the Farm Bureau projects that fallowed acreage will double. For farmers, the drought started long before the governor’s edict.
With his well nearly dry, a farmer draws on his resolve [Los Angeles Times]
It was done. Over. No more waiting for rain, hoping for snow. The 32-year-old farmer in the barber’s chair said his well wouldn’t make it to summer. “I held on a little longer than some,” Adam Toledo said. “But only the richest will survive now.”…Orange blossoms scented the air. White bee boxes were stacked in nut orchards. Down the road, an orange grove in Strathmore was dead — black moldy fruit clinging to the trees. A farmer’s well had gone dry. Other groves in this eastern part of the San Joaquin Valley at the foot of the Sierra Nevada were dying because the owners could make more money selling their water to irrigation districts than farming their land. Water — bought and sold — flowed in concrete canals, but rivers were dry.
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