Admittedly, there is an economic catastrophe in the San Joaquin Valley. In fact, it could be said that agribusiness has been an economic catastrophe for its workers for the past century. We would suggest that farm-worker unemployment on the west side is not much higher than normal for this time of the year. The main reason people are still working for western agribusiness today is the even more catastrophic economy of Mexico. Farmworkers on the west side have always faced "complete economic ruin without help." The entire political economy of agribusiness is to blame for that. To hear agribusiness and its political lackeys cry, "Lo, the poor farmworker," is scraping the bottom of the barrel of hypocrisy, credit and unsustainable farming.
Today, west-side towns are not the only places in the valley or in California where people are standing in bread lines.
California is not a breadbasket. It grows specialty fruits, nuts and vegetables. However, at times it has grown a great deal of grain, much of it dry farmed.
Among the agribusiness firms that have contributed lavishly to Sen. Feinstein's political treasury, the problem of the largest, Stewart Resnick of Paramount Farms, is not what Paramount is going to plant this season on fallow ground, it is what Paramount has already planted -- vast orchards. There is possibly a price for being the Tyrannus Rex of almonds and pomegranates. Other dinosaurs have also come and gone in Valley history. Some have gone bankrupt. Lately, they seem to prefer to sell their water rights to urban water districts.
Setting aside for a moment Feinstein's gratitude to contributors, her whole effort to gut the Endangered Species Act "temporarily" on behalf of the aqua-oligarchs may have at least as much to do with the solvency of lenders than it does borrowers.
The Central Valley Project was without question the most magnificent gift any group of American farmers had ever received; they couldn't have dreamed of building it themselves, and the cheap power and interest exemption constituted a subsidy that would be worth billions over the years. It rescued thousands of farms that were already there, including many that were far larger than the law allowed. -- Mark Reisner, Cadillac Desert.
Badlands Journal editorial board
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Contact: Gil Durán or Phil LaVelle
Feinstein Statement on Potential Emergency Move to Provide More Water to Farmers, Avert Further Economic Catastrophe in San Joaquin Valley
“The San Joaquin Valley is experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis - a situation so grave it was termed 'catastrophic' by a federal judge.
The unemployment rate is 40 percent in some Valley towns, and people are standing in bread lines. I believe we need a fair compromise that will respect the Endangered Species Act while recognizing the fact that people in California's breadbasket face complete economic ruin without help.
Therefore, I am working to develop an Emergency Temporary Water Supply amendment that will simply allow San Joaquin Valley farmers to plant, hire and harvest for two years by giving them between 38-40 percent of their water allocation totals in a normal water year.
Due to above-average precipitation in recent weeks, the snowpack in the Northern Sierra is 130 percent of the normal level and the water content is 123 percent of the normal level. Yet water has been gushing past the canals and into the oceans while farms on the West Side of the Valley are likely to receive a very low percentage of their water allocations for a second year because that water cannot be pumped and stored.
Over the last few years, 400,000 acres of farmland have been fallowed, permanent crops uprooted, and tens of thousands of people are unemployed. The situation is untenable.
There is precedent for the solution I am pursuing: in 2003, Congress unanimously approved legislation that provided water supply certainty with regard to restrictions imposed to protect the Silvery Minnow in New Mexico.
In that legislation, Congress mandated that a Biological Opinion be implemented with a change. I am looking to provide similar protections here. I am open to alternative ways to provide a 38-40% normal year water supply to farmers, and there is no final draft of the legislation at this time.”