“We have had poor leadership from the Brown Administration on these water issues -- all exacerbated by Brown’s push for the Delta tunnels. The State Water Board is attempting to solve the problem of San Joaquin River flows like King Solomon splitting the baby between water users near Modesto and the Delta. But now, we have Congressman Denham, like his California Congressional colleagues Calvert and Valadao, making the entire situation worse. And to add insult to injury he is bringing the anti-clean water Trump Administration here into the District in an attempt to force the rider into law,” Barrigan-Parrilla-Parrilla stated. -- Bacher, IndyBay, July 26. 2018
California Republicans complain Trump’s farm aid plan unfair
California Republican members of Congress are delivering a warning to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in a letter set to go out Tuesday evening: Tariffs are “threatening the economic livelihood of our businesses and communities” — and the department needs to do more to help.
Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock circulated the letter, which was joined by fellow Republicans David Valadao, Devin Nunes, Ed Royce and Ken Calvert, as well as California Democrats Ami Bera, Jim Costa, Jimmy Panetta, Julia Brownley and Salud Carbajal.
A copy of the letter, obtained by The Sacramento Bee, indicates many Republicans — and their constituents in the agriculture industry — were not placated by the Trump administration’s effort last week to reassure lawmakers that their trade strategy is working.
The White House announced on July 24 that it was preparing a hefty $12 billion aid package for farmers hurt by foreign tariffs, which have been ratcheted up in recent months in response to new American duties. China, in particular, has slapped heavy taxes on some of California’s top agricultural exports, including almonds, walnuts and a range of fresh produce.
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The next day, President Trump announced that he and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had agreed to “work together toward zero tariffs” between the United States and the European Union. And on July 26, top Trump economic advisors Peter Navarro and Larry Kudlow held a closed door meeting with House Republicans in an attempt to address their trade concerns.
California Republicans said they were heartened by those steps. Kudlow and Navarro “both assured us that the administration’s ultimate trade objective is zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers and zero subsidies,” Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove said in a statement. “I wholeheartedly endorse these objectives and am encouraged by the announcement (Thursday) regarding the E.U.”
The path forward, however, remains unclear, not just in regard to Europe but also China, Canada, Mexico, India and Turkey, who have increased taxes on American agricultural products and other goods — some north of 50 percent.
In Senate testimony on July 26, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed optimism that the administration was “close” to finishing negotiations to update NAFTA, the landmark free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. China, however, is going to be a longer term problem,” Lighthizer said, although he added, “That isn’t to say we’re going to be in a trade war with China.”
Trade war or no, the spat between Washington and Beijing that began in March has begun to bite. House Republicans wrote in their letter that the tariffs “are making fruits, vegetables and tree nuts in our districts significantly more expensive than their competitors.” In its current form, Trump’s aid package doesn’t do enough to offset that, they argued.
Under the plan’s outlines, specialty crop farmers would not qualify for direct payments from the federal government, the way crops like soybeans, corn, wheat and sorghum would. The congressmen that signed the letter, which was drafted and circulated by Denham’s office, say that’s unfair. “We share (growers’) concerns about solely relying on a food purchase and distribution program for these extremely diverse and high-value commodities, such as tree nuts, citrus, leafy greens, berries, stone fruit, and potatoes.”
“Any program that is focused on direct payments,” they continued, “should be constructed in a way that can also work for the growers of these types of commodities.”
California Republicans have been cautious about confronting the Trump administration publicly on trade, speaking out only sporadically. McClintock warned in a speech on the House floor at the beginning of March that raising tariffs would hurt the economy. Valadao, Denham, Republican Steve Knight of Palmdale and five Democratic colleagues from California sent a letter to Lighthizer in early May expressing “strong concerns” about the trade conflict with China and its impact on agricultural exports. And a number of California Republicans joined a bipartisan July letter warning against auto tariffs.
Nunes, who represents a large farming community in Fresno and Tulare Counties, tried a different tack: flattery. He signed onto a letter from Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee to the president last week, heaping praise on Trump’s negotiating skills. “We are confident that if you personally engage with President Xi, you would reinvigorate the negotiations and develop meaningful solutions that will establish free, fair, and lasting trade between the United States and China,” it read.
None of California’s Republican members, however, have thrown their support behind legislation to limit the president’s power to impose tariffs, a move that is gaining supportfrom influential Senate Republicans.
Their reticence may in part be due to the influence of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield. McCarthy was noticeably absent from the Perdue letter — one of only two San Joaquin Valley congressmen who did not sign on — despite representing Kern County, the state’s largest agricultural producer and one of the top vegetable producing regions in the America.
According to one industry lobbyist, his office is urging others not to rock the boat on trade, telling the state’s farming interests it’s best to stay quiet and ride out the consequences. McCarthy’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the trade discussions with the administration or the agriculture sector back home.
McCarthy’s message, however, echoes the one President Trump and his top administration officials are delivering. “When you have people snipping at your heels during a negotiation, it will only take longer to make a deal, and the deal will never be as good as it could have been with unity,” the president tweeted last week. “Negotiations are going really well, be cool.”
For California Republicans, that’s easier said than done. With harvest season for many crops getting underway and produce starting to pile up in storage facilities, the political heat is rising back home. And an organization affiliated with American Farm Bureau Federation is seeking to intensify the pressure while lawmakers are in their districts during the the month-long congressional recess that starts this week.
The group, Farmers for Free Trade, launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign on July 26 to “highlight the widespread economic pain” that the president’s “trade war” is causing. As part of that effort, the group plans to hold town halls in Fresno and Bakersfield on Aug. 15 and 16, respectively.
California farm groups, meanwhile, expect to spend August lobbying furiously for a bigger slice of the USDA aid program. In the letter, the bipartisan group of California lawmakers exhorted Perdue to listen. “We urge you to continue working with the specialty crop stakeholders on their recommendations,” they wrote.
Coalition tells Denham and Zinke: Hands off state water rights & Delta flows!
by Dan Bacher
Morning Star Gali, Tribal Water Organizer with Save California Salmon and a member of the Pit River Tribe, described the catastrophic consequences that would result if Denham’s rider and the other two riders get through Congress with backing by the Trump administration. Photo by Dan Bacher.
As Congressman Jeff Denham was touring Don Pedro and New Melones reservoirs with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on July 20, conservation, Tribal and environmental justice advocates held a press conference outside Denham’s Office In Modesto on July 20 to voice their opposition to three poison pill riders to an Interior Spending Bill that threaten to destroy salmon and other West Coast fisheries and eviscerate California water and environmental laws.
Speakers at the event included Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta; Morning Star Gali, Tribal Water Organizer with Save California Salmon; Sonia Diermayer; Co-Chair of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, Ron Stork, Policy Analyst and CA Water expert with Friends of the River; and Kimberly Warmsley, a San Joaquin County environmental justice advocate.
The coalition blasted Denham for introducing the latest rider to the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 6147)—a bill that has received criticism from Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Kamala Harris, and even California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, due to riders written by Congressman Ken Calvert (R-Corona) and Congressman David Valadao (R-Hanford) that seek to bypass state and federal law by banning judicial review on the Delta tunnels project, the State Water Project, and the Central Valley Project.
On the day before the press conference, the House of Representatives approved HR 6147 with the three riders attached. The package will now go to the U.S. Senate, where a big battle over the controversial riders is expected.
Barrigan-Parrilla-Parrilla began the press conference by discussing how Denham’s rider would increase water diversions for farmers in the east end of his district at the expense of those on the west end of his district.
“Jeff Denham says he is against the Delta tunnels, but his rider that ended up in the Interior spending bill yesterday attempts to increase water diversions for the eastside of his district—thereby worsening water quality for Delta farmers and residents living at the west end of his district in Tracy and Manteca,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “Clearly, he does not genuinely care about the Delta’s people or ecosystem. He is favoring one part of his district over the other. He is favoring big ag mega donors, over middle-class residents, Delta family farmers and the environmental justice communities found in the urban Delta.”
She accused Denham of “now calling on the Trump Administration to help him in his cause to starve the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary of the freshwater flows it needs to be saved and restored for future generations.”
“His rider, along with Calvert’s and Valadao’s riders that made it into the House Interior Appropriations bill, are now all tied together in an attempt to circumvent water rights laws and protections for the SF Bay-Delta estuary. These three California Republican Congressional Representatives are attempting to clear the path for the Construction of Governor Jerry Brown’s tunnels (that’s a weird alliance huh, but it’s true – we have the receipts),” she said.
“These three congressional reps are trying to circumvent state water rights that will lead to the privatization of water because Delta tunnel proponents are now looking at a public private partnership to pay for the project. Private investors will end up controlling water deliveries throughout the state if the tunnels are built,” noted Barrigan-Parrilla.
Barrigan-Parrilla said the State Water Resources Control Board “made a mistake in 2009 because upstream San Joaquin River and tributary water users were not brought to the table to share water. And that’s who Jeff Denham and Ryan Zinke are protecting. The sacrifice being made to put some water back into the system, even though it’s not enough -- is only on the backs of middle class farmers on the lower tributaries.”
“And because they are understably upset, Jeff Denham created legislation to harm water rusers in the Delta instead. He is punishing the Delta to please his big ag donors, instead of bringing all waterall water users to the table for a better solution. He is a divider, not a uniter,” she pointed out.
“Science tells us that fisheries and the Delta need 50-60% freshwater flows from the San Joaquin Rivers and its tributaries to stop extinction of our fisheries. South Delta farmers and water users need these freshwater flows so that water quality is maintained for crops, Delta environmental justice communities, and all beneficial uses of water under the law,” Barrigan-Parrilla continued.
She criticized both the Brown administration’s “poor leadership” on water issues — and Republican Congressmen Denham’s for bringing Zinke to his district to promote his rider.
“We have had poor leadership from the Brown Administration on these water issues -- all exacerbated by Brown’s push for the Delta tunnels. The State Water Board is attempting to solve the problem of San Joaquin River flows like King Solomon splitting the baby between water users near Modesto and the Delta. But now, we have Congressman Denham, like his California Congressional colleagues Calvert and Valadao, making the entire situation worse. And to add insult to injury he is bringing the anti-clean water Trump Administration here into the District in an attempt to force the rider into law,” Barrigan-Parrilla-Parrilla stated.
“Ryan Zinke needs to go home – and Jeff Denham should keep his hands off Delta flows. Try working on a positive solution instead of robbing everyday Americans for your rich donors,” she concluded.
Morning Star Gali, Tribal Water Organizer with Save California Salmon and a member of the Pit River Tribe, described the catastrophic consequences that would result if Denham’s rider and the other two riders get through Congress with backing by the Trump administration.
“California’s iconic salmon are facing extinction due to bad water management and waste,” said Gali. “Salmon have been part of California’s economy and culture long before its official statehood.”
“The Trump Administration’s meddling in California’s state rights threatens our economies, jobs, and livelihoods. It also threatens the rights of native people, whom are the real senior water rights holders, and are leading the effort to restore California’s rivers for all people,” Gali emphasized.
Gali described Denham’s rider as “a threat to California’s people and California’s Tribes and a favor to Big Ag made without the consent of California’s Tribal Peoples. The voters are not aware of the impending impact of the rider and the federal plan to raise Shasta Dam and increase water diversions on California Tribal Water Rights.”
Ron Stork, Senior Policy Advocate for Friends of the River, said, “Forty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the long tradition in western water that the states were in control of their state waters, not the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. I don’t think Denham understands that concept and it’s time he does.”
“The only that can regulate state waters is the state of California. It’s not OK to get permission for the Bureau of Reclamation to go rogue. The Bureau is not the right agency, not the right one, to be involved on the Stanislaus or other California rivers,” stated Stork.
Kimberly Warmsley, a San Joaquin County environmental justice advocate, said Denham’s rider would “starve the Delta of its water needs.”
”Denham wants to destroy the Delta,” she said. “He needs to care as much about the Delta and its people as much as other parts of his district. A social justice threat anywhere is a threat to people everywhere.”
Sonia Diermayer, Co-Chair of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club. said California's water resources “must be shared equitably among all its people and its natural environment.
“We will not stand by and watch as Representative Denham, along with other congressional Republicans and the Trump administration impose federal controls over California water rights and infrastructure that would benefit a few and harm many,” she concluded.
To see a video of the press conference by Gene Beley of Stockton, go to: https://vimeo.com/281029209
Gene Beley Interview with Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla in Modesto:
You Tube: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla explains why private investors for twin tunnels is a bad idea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Imt-R_Sg6Yw
On Vimeo: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta, tells why private financing is a bad idea: https://vimeo.com/281088368
Ironically, at the same time the Trump Administration and Congress are teaming up in an attempt to eviscerate state’s rights and destroy the Delta and Central Valley rivers, the Delta Conveyance Finance Authority’s (DCFA) has requested a $1.6 billion loan from the Trump Administration through an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program for the construction of Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels project.
On July 23, a statement from the Delta Counties Coalition described the controversial project as the “State of California’s ill-conceived proposal to build twin tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta known as ‘WaterFix’”.
Opponents say the project to divert Sacramento River from the North Delta by building two massive 35 mile long tunnels would destroy the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta ecosystem and West Coast fisheries.
“The Metropolitan Water District and other tunnel proponents that make up the DCFA, haven’t even started the project and they are already seeking a federal deal,” said Sacramento County Supervisor and DCC Chair Don Nottoli.
Nottoli noted that the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), the lead federal agency responsible for the environmental review of California WaterFix, is on record signaling that it does not expect to participate in the funding or construction of the tunnels.
Last October, Russell Newell, a spokesman for DOI, said: “While the Department of the Interior shares the goals of the state of California to deliver water with more certainty, eliminating risks to the California water supply, and improving the environment, at this time, the Department under the current state proposal does not expect to participate in the construction or funding of the CA WaterFix.”
“WaterFix has always been a water grab and, to top it off, they want taxpayers to underwrite a mega low-interest loan that will irreparably harm the Delta” continued Nottoli. “We hope EPA, like DOI, will oppose providing funding or financing for the project.”
“If the JPA gains access to $1.6 billion in financing, it will crowd out funding that could otherwise be used by other California agencies throughout the State. This essentially slams the door on critical projects that, unlike WaterFix, could actually increase the State’s water supply for many California communities,” Nottoli concluded.
For more information, go to: http://www.dailykos.com/…
A week after visit to New Melones, Department of Interior blasts state water plan
The Department of the Interior issued a blistering attack against the state’s proposed water grab, saying it would “cripple the Central Valley’s economy, farms and community.”
The comments late Friday afternoon came a week after Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke visited Don Pedro and New Melones reservoirs at the request of Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock.
Earlier this month, the California State Water Resources Control Board issued a final proposal that would require 40 percent of unimpeded flows from February to June on the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers, which are tributaries into the San Joaquin River that feeds the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The move, in what it says is an effort to save the Delta’s failing ecosystem, angered farmers, politicians and many others throughout the Valley.
Opponents of the state’s plan pointed to what they say will be massive negative impacts on the Valley’s economy, agriculture and land values, among other things.
The Interior’s comments Friday were part of an eight-page letter to board chairwoman Felicia Marcus, and stated the proposal appears “to directly interfere with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water. The Board amendments essentially elevate the Project’s fish and wildlife purposes over the Project’s irrigation and domestic purposes contrary to the prioritization scheme carefully established by Congress.”
It also pointed to the effects on New Melones’ water storage and the potential to diminish power generation, as well as issues surrounding the area’s recreational opportunities. Water from New Melones, which also provides water for the Central Valley Project, flows into the Stanislaus River.
Marcus, in an article she wrote for The Sacramento Bee defending the plan, said “Yes, leaving more water to flow into the Delta from both the San Joaquin and Sacramento watersheds will be challenging for water users, which is why the proposal sends more water but still less than what is optimal for fish and wildlife. Water users can adapt – by switching crops, becoming more efficient and storing more water in wet times. In contrast, species pushed to the brink of extinction have few options.”
Meanwhile, Denham recently added an amendment to keep federal agencies from depleting New Melones as part of the Interior’s appropriations bill. His amendment passed through Congress.
“Under Sacramento’s plan, the Valley will suffer skyrocketing water and electricity rates,” Denham said in a statement released Saturday. “After a decade and millions of our money spent on a study that they required, the board ignored the science based proposal that would save our fish while preserving our water rights. We will not allow them to take our water and destroy our way of life.”
On the day of Zinke’s visit to Don Pedro and New Melones, Dennis Mills, a member of the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, sent a letter to President Trump imploring his administration to step in. He, too, pointed to the impacts the plan would have on New Melones.
“Simply put,” he wrote, “this proposal places a higher value on fish than people!”
Friday’s letter to Marcus from the Interior Department came on the same day public comment on the issue closed. The department also asked that the water board postpone its scheduled Aug. 21-22 meetings in Sacramento, where it will consider adopting the plan.
On Aug. 20, a rally to “Stop The State Water Grab” will be held at noon on the north steps of the Capitol building in Sacramento. For more information or to RSVP, contact Assemblyman Adam Gray’s office at 209-726-5465.