chart
The chart above shows how applied water was used in CA during the water year 2016. (Graphic: NCWA)

By Patty Poire, President, Kern County Farm Bureau

Patty Poire President, Kern County Farm Bureau
Patty Poire, President, Kern County Farm Bureau

As the United States of America is nearing its 250 years in existence (a few more years to go but close), we seem to be more confused as a country on its direction and the needs of its citizens.

The headlines are reading like this is a new country with no “true” values when, in fact, the “true” values are what have sustained us all these years. The agricultural industry has been around for most of those years and exists to accomplish one thing: to provide the food for the people. Unlike the energy situation where our country relies heavily on other countries now, we have historically grown and supplied not only our own food but also food for the world. But if the drought continues (which I do not see changing anytime soon), water policy in California remains the same and SGMA moves forward (which I don’t see changing anytime soon either), having our food production remaining within our boundaries may soon be just a memory. Do we want to be reliant on other countries for our food supply?

Now the headlines are reading that food scarcity is on the rise along with the inflation component that comes with that. At a time when the CA aqueduct construction was completed and water flowed, agriculture’s water reliability was around 98% until around the year 2000 when water reliability went to 58%, and now within the last 5 years, water reliability is sitting around 42%. How does the agriculture industry continue to feed the country when using water for growing food is no longer a priority? To understand how the change has gradually occurred, see below about water use in California. Urban is a small component of water use however when asked to curtail water use, urban went the opposite direction by increasing their water use. Do they not know or understand the need to use water for their everyday need of fruits and vegetables? Is urban so removed from how their food is grown that they do not understand the relationship between food and water and agriculture? Or even worse, do legislators understand?

I used the chart below to bring to your attention what is happening in the Sacramento Valley which is where legislators exist. At this time about 300,000 acres of rice production is not going to be planted due to curtailments of water.

This is not just happening in the Sacramento Valley but throughout the State of California, especially within the San Joaquin Valley which has been known as the “breadbasket” for the nation. And one then asks after reading the headlines, why does food scarcity exist? Why are food prices going up? They say it is because of inflation, but it is partly because of bad water policy decisions and the move away from producing our own food to importing and becoming reliant on other countries for the most vital component of our own existence, the ability to feed our people. 

Happy 4th of July!