Commentary: California must continue to seek solutions to water crisis

Issue Date: September 10, 2008
Doug Mosebar

Anyone who's planted a new orchard knows that it can take years for a tree to bear fruit. And anyone who has worked on legislation knows that it often takes years for a good idea to bear fruit, too.

That's why Farm Bureau has worked so consistently, for so many years, pursuing reliable water supplies for California. That's why we will continue to work on this important issue for the remainder of this year, next year—and the following year, and the year after that if we have to—until our state has a comprehensive solution to its water problems.

We moved closer to a solution this year than we have in a long time. For that, we can thank Gov. Schwarzenegger, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, state Sen. Dave Cogdill and others in the Legislature who worked long and hard to create a water bond package that would address California's needs.

Farm Bureau worked with all of them to make sure that any comprehensive water package included the elements we considered most important. We didn't agree with everything that was discussed but we stayed involved because our members have so much at stake.

Ultimately, the clock ran out. Despite the best efforts of the governor, Sen. Feinstein, Sen. Cogdill and other leaders who recognize the problem, it looks like another year will pass without the water solution California needs so urgently.

If you've been reading Ag Alert® the last few weeks, you've seen example after example of how urgent the need has become. We've talked to dozens of family farmers and ranchers who responded to our Water Shortage Impact Survey and profiled farmers who have stumped their avocado trees, left fields barren, abandoned crops, seen crop yields decline and watched their markets erode because they don't have reliable water supplies to assure reliable crop production.

Day after day, week after week, we're accumulating more evidence that we're in a deepening water crisis in California. That crisis may be hitting farms, ranches and rural communities first, but it will spread to other parts of our economy and our society. California has not developed enough water to meet the needs of its growing population and the current system is hamstrung by policy commitments to environmental protections and an aging water infrastructure.

We know what a solution looks like. It includes new storage, it protects water rights, it features improved ways to move water and it keeps family farms and ranches in the business of producing food and farm products for our growing population.

California must continue to work toward a comprehensive, long-term solution for the environmental, urban and agricultural water needs of our state. Farm Bureau will not quit until we get there. Any water policies that California adopts must recognize the importance of growing food to sustain our increasing population. Californians want and expect more locally grown food and as family farmers and ranchers we have the expertise to produce large amounts of top-quality food and farm products.

The ability to grow food on America's soils, to feed our nation and assist in hunger relief efforts around the world, is a national security issue. Let's give this crucial issue the level of attention it deserves by crafting water policy that works for everyone.

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