RIPON, Calif., April 14, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- More and more national outlets are taking interest in California's devastating drought recently, and we welcome the increased focus on a critical issue that is affecting farmers and families throughout our great state. The best, most accurate discussion, though, always benefits from a little local perspective.
So before you repeat the vogue claims about the role of agriculture in California or the amount of water it takes to grow almonds, please take a minute to read what these respected local voices have to say:
Mike Dunbar, Opinions Page Editor at the Modesto Bee, notes that many journalists are struggling with their drought math.
What's left when you take nothing from nothing?
A lot of bloggers and commentators believe the answer is 25%. They've criticized Gov. Jerry Brown for giving "Big Ag" a drought pass. Unfair, they cry, echoing the wails of urbanites required to cut consumption by 25% (or more, in some cases).
Why aren't farmers being asked to do more?
Because most (not all) already have cut far more. A 25% cut would not be an improvement. Farmers around Fresno have been told they'll get nothing this year from their usual water suppliers — same as they got last year. That led farmers to fallow 400,000 acres last year — or 5% of the state's irrigated farmland. This year it could be two or three times that much. Around Modesto, many farmers will do with half as much as they got last year, which was 30% less than they got the year before.
Ann Hayden, Director of the CA Habitat Exchange & Western Water for the Environmental Defense Fund, writes that the debate about California's drought has been full of hot air:
...it's unfair and inaccurate to suggest, first, that agriculture was passed over, and second, that a small nut is primarily to blame for sucking the state dry. It's more complicated than that...
Until now, agriculture has borne the brunt of California's drought.
Most farmers – along with two-thirds of California's population – receive water allocations from the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project, a complex, interconnected system of reservoirs, aqueducts, and pumping plants that deliver water, including melted snow from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to all points south.
In 2014, those allocations dipped to near record lows – zero in some cases – due to paltry rainfall and snowpack. The diminished supplies cost farmers about $2.2 billion and eliminated more than 17,000 jobs. More than 500,000 acres of cropland were fallowed.
Mark Cowin, Director of the California Department of Water Resources, reminds readers about the importance of agriculture to California and the sacrifices farmers have already made:
Some question why the mandated water reductions did not extend to agriculture, which uses a larger share of the state's developed water supply than homes and businesses.
Millions of acre-feet of surface water will not go to farms this year. The roughly half-million acres of farmland not planted last year (of roughly 9 million irrigated acres in the state) will likely expand this year. The state's two biggest water projects already have cut deliveries by between 50 percent and 100 percent...
Agriculture is the economic engine of rural California, and the entire state enjoys the variety of safe, nutritious food that California farmers produce. There are many gallons of water, applied by a farmer, behind each of our meals.
The Almond Hullers & Processors Association (AHPA) is a trade association representing the interests almond growers, hullers/shellers, and processors. Established in 1980, AHPA is a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to initiate, sponsor, promote, and carry out research and educational programs, plans, policies, and activities that will assist its members to improve the quality of almonds and almond by-products. Follow us on Twitter @AHPAalmonds.
Manager, Industry Communications, Almond Board of California
Consultant to Almond Hullers and Processors Association
SOURCE Almond Hullers & Processors Association