MID's 49 acres of dogs and ponies

Last week the eastern Merced County Integrated Regional Water Management Plan meeting (pronounced "Ear-Wimp") was edified by an hour-long report scheduled for 15 minutes by Merced Irrigation District. It was presented by the speaker as  a word-by-word repeat of MID's recitation before the state Water Quality Control Board in protest against the state's proposal to increase the flow of the Merced River to 35 percent of natural flow between the months of February and June for the benefit of certain species of salmon. The water board is proposing the same increase in flow for the Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers, causing howls of protest in concert with Merced from the Turlock and Modesto irrigation districts.
This proposal was presented to the state and the assembled earwimpers as the worst thing since the boll weevil, brown rot and foot-and-mouth disease. The foundation of the district's argument was that it was going to destroy "thousands of small farmers in Merced County." The average size of a Merced County farm was declared by MID to be 49 acres. 
We wondered how dumb anyone would have to be to share this vision of the Armageddon of small Merced County farmers, but we are dealing with the state, so we asked the MID speaker if anyone on the board believed in the existence of all these soon-to-be destitute 49-acre Merced County farmers. 
To our relief, he replied that they did not believe MID's "narrative." He said it in an outraged tone, as if the members of the state water board were too stupid to understand the economic mayhem they were distributing upon our eastern Merced County lands. 
"But surely," we tried to continue the conversation against the mood of impatient dismissal, "nobody in their right mind would believe that."
People representing the environmental interest among the earwimpers are in constant need of instruction from our learned agriculturalists. One of the latter replied to the question by explaining that he farmed plots as small as 10 to 20 acres, along with some 40s -- anywhere from 10 to 20 of such parcels a year. 
So, one farmer leases enough small parcels to make up several hundred acres and makes a living out of them, paying rent to landowners, probably many of them absentee heirs of family farms of a generation ago. 
There are many such small farm ownerships in the county, leasing their land or orchards to active farmers. 
But there is another way by which the average size of agricultural ownerships appear on the assessor's roles as fairly small. It is an open secret in agriculture at least in Merced County that banks will lend more money on smaller parcels than on larger ones. For this economic reason and for inheritance reasons, farmers frequently seek to split their land holdings into 40-acre parcels whenever possible. The explanation for the banks' preferences is that smaller lots are more attractive for real estate development therefore merit larger loans, even if the presumptive purpose is to merely farm the parcels. But these 40-acre parcels may appear in a single ownership of hundreds or thousands of acres. 
State legislation and three water bonds in the last decade established IRWMPs throughout the state and provided the funds to grant them for projects that will somehow improve the surface and groundwater situation in California. The grants are controled by the state Department of Water Resources. Legally and technically, the eastern Merced County IRWMP has nothing to do with the state water board's proposal, except that its area coincides with the area serviced by MID. 
The MID presumption is that all good little eastern Merced earwimpers are supposed to hear that bugle sounding and rise to defend the thousands of 49-acre small farmers to be economically ruined -- to the detriment of the entire local economy -- by the state Water Quality Board. Should the monthly meeting with a heavy agenda of tasks to peform to keep on the tight schedule of deadlines mandated by the state Department of Water Resources for the local IRWMPs be interrupted by an hour's worth of irrigation district propaganda against the water quality board?
Once again, as so often happens when delegates representing special interests in Merced County go to Sacramento or Washington, citizens of Merced County look like idiots in these fora because people can't imagine why or how we would allow so much of the well-known substance to be uttered in our names.