Western Growers’ President and CEO Tom Nassif released a statement today following Governor Jerry Brown’s announcement that he will expedite the use of $1 billion in funding to help local communities cope with the effects of the ongoing drought. The funding was made available from a legislatively-referred water bond (Proposition 1) passed by voters this past November. The governor was joined by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, and Republican Leaders Senator Bob Huff and Assemblymember Kristin Olsen.
“Today the Governor said that if the drought continues, ‘there will be restrictions’ on water use by all Californians. This may be interpreted by some to mean that so far, there haven’t been any restrictions placed on the state’s farmers. In fact, California farmers and Californians living in some rural areas are the only people in the state who have had their water cut off. Last year, the State Water Project only delivered five percent of the requested supply. The federal Central Valley Project delivered no water at all to the San Joaquin Valley. This year, the state project will deliver only 20 percent and the federal project is projecting another year of zero water delivered to the San Joaquin Valley.
Farmers bear the brunt of these restrictions. Last year, 500,000 acres of highly productive farmland was left unplanted, and that number is expected to grow by as much as 40 percent this year. For the farm workers and others whose economic security is tied to California’s farms, water supply restrictions mean lost jobs and family stress. Last year, 17,000 farm jobs were lost due to water cuts and this year the number will be higher.
We appreciate the intentions behind the emergency legislation announced today and we are grateful for the aid it might provide to some of the tens of thousands in our communities who are suffering, but real relief can only come from an end to this drought and the regulatory policies that have exacerbated it. We continue to watch helplessly as scarce water that could be stored south of the Delta is instead sent to the sea in the name of species protection, notwithstanding the fact that through both wet and dry periods this has failed to halt the decline of the very same species.
We urge members of both parties in Congress to recommit to the hard work of crafting legislation that would shield farmers, farm workers and cities in the San Joaquin Valley from this regulatory overreach without altering the Endangered Species Act. It can be done, and nearly was done last year. The good work of Senator Feinstein, Majority Leader McCarthy, and Representatives Valadao, Nunes, Costa and Calvert must not be abandoned. We urge these leaders to restart their work quickly and seek rapid action on the legislation that was negotiated last year.”
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