CFBF flooded with water survey responses, but more sought


Issue Date: July 9, 2008
Christine Souza

In an effort to address the challenging realities of how the state's water shortage is impacting family farms and ranches, the California Farm Bureau Federation is requesting that its members complete a one-page Water Shortage Impact Survey.

Whether a farmer is losing 30 percent of his income, not planting a crop or having to sell livestock due to a lack of water, knowing the personal stories of farmers will make a difference when discussing water issues, says California Farm Bureau Federation President Doug Mosebar.

"We are interested in knowing how the water shortage is impacting our farmers and we would like to communicate their experiences to policymakers who represent us so that they are well informed about the impacts to agriculture," Mosebar said.

CFBF Director of Water Resources Danny Merkley indicated that more than 100 family farmers from across the state completed the surveys in the first few days after it was published in Ag Alert and placed on the CFBF Web site. Farmers who have not yet participated are urged to do so right away.

"The survey is a tremendous tool that we are going to use to emphasize to the governor, legislators, media and the consumer that hundreds of acres of food and fiber are being abandoned due to the lack of water," Merkley said.

According to surveys received, farmers expressed the need for additional storage for surface water and they would like the people of California to recognize that the state's farmers and ranchers grow the safest, most abundant food supply in the world.

In the area of nursery crops, surveys completed by farmers in Riverside, San Diego, Orange and Sacramento counties addressed having to cut back production, lay off employees and face thousands of dollars worth of increased input costs due to the lack of water. One San Diego flower grower reported that increased fuel-related expenses such as fertilizers, plastics, drip tape and so on are having an impact. Another San Diego grower reported spending $24,000 on drilling for a new well that ended up dry. He too has had to let employees go.

A citrus grower who has groves in Tulare, Fresno, Madera and Kern counties says groundwater pumping in a non-drought year accounts for about 25 percent of his water usage. This year, it will exceed 50 percent. A Riverside avocado grower said that her family farm is now in jeopardy of being lost due to the cost of water and supplies. A San Diego grower anticipates that unless avocado prices increase dramatically, he will be out of business within five years.

A Fresno County field crops grower wrote that if he is allowed to irrigate as he is currently, then he should be able to survive. If more cutbacks are made, he says all crops could be lost. A rice grower from Yolo County said he took more than 350 acres out of production and instead planted dryland wheat and safflower.

California ranchers are reducing the number of livestock in their herds as a result of the lack of water and forage and increased input costs.

A vegetable grower spoke of the importance of telling consumers about the drought and its potential impact on the food supply.

"Americans still don't believe that anything could actually be in short supply," one farmer wrote in her survey. "The Earth and its resources are not infinite. I still see people watering their sidewalks."

Farmers and ranchers may participate in the survey by going to www.cfbf.com/watersurvey. Or fill out the survey on this page and fax it to (916) 446-1391. The survey can also be mailed to California Farm Bureau, 1127 11th St., Suite 626, Sacramento, CA 95814. Questions about the survey can be directed to Danny Merkley, CFBF director of water resources, at (916) 446-4647.

(Christine Souza is a reporter for Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.