During a press conference held in a barren, parched farmer’s field near Bakersfield, Speaker John Boehner, accompanied by three House members of the California delegation -- Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Congressman David Valadao and Congressman Devin Nunes -- announced his support for a legislative proposal to mitigate the harm the drought is causing California farmers.
The proposal is expected to be introduced in a couple of weeks and is anticipated to temporarily allow more water to be pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta when available, suspend through 2015 releases of water to the San Joaquin River that are mandated by the San Joaquin River Restoration Act, and create a bipartisan House- Senate committee to develop long term solutions to the perpetual water shortages affecting San Joaquin Valley farms and communities.
Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers, issued the following statement to the media in response to yesterday’s announcement:
“The drought is doing great damage to farmers, farm workers and many other people who are part of the most productive agriculture state in the country. Federal regulatory decisions made last year in the Delta made this situation much worse, by failing to pump and store more than 800,000 acre feet of winter runoff. The federal agencies charged with implementing fish species protections in the Delta declined to use their available discretion to capture that water, instead letting it flow out to sea.
It is time for Congress to act. We appreciate the efforts of Speaker Boehner and Congressmen McCarthy, Nunes and Valadao to encourage action by both houses of Congress on this crisis. We believe bipartisan agreement is necessary and possible. There are very moderate and reasonable steps available, such as federal legislation giving the regulatory agencies clear direction to allow the state and federal water project pumps in the Delta to operate at higher levels than they have in recent years. We must capture water runoff when it is available and store it for the protection of our farms and communities.
Our state’s water system is overdue for serious upgrades. We need more storage facilities and greater support for desalinization and water reuse projects that reduce reliance on the Delta. A refocused water bond should be presented to the state’s voters with strong support from our state and federal leaders. Federal action to raise the existing Shasta Dam should be expedited. Improved conveyance facilities in the Delta are essential for improving water supply reliability in much of the state as well as restoring the Delta ecosystem, as envisioned by the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
There is so much to be done, but there has been so little action in Congress so far. We hope that the Speaker’s engagement today marks a willingness by members of both parties and both houses of Congress to work toward bipartisan solutions to the water supply crisis that threatens thousands of America’s most productive farmers and thousands more whose livelihood is tied to their survival. “
The press conference garnered significant national and local media attention, and Nassif’s statement was carried in a wide-variety of mainstream and trade publications, including: The Fresno Bee, Agri-Pulse, FarmPolicy.com and Maven’s Notebook.
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