By Patty Poire, President, Kern County Farm Bureau
WOW! It’s only been 30 days since I last wrote an article, but it appears that life has changed overnight due to the devastation occurring in Ukraine. Russia’s aggression on Ukraine came swiftly with impacts that are a stark reminder of times past, like when Iran decided to attack its neighbors, resulting in similar consequences—raised oil prices, food uncertainty, high production costs, inflation, and the list goes on. You would think that we would have learned that being self-reliant on the “necessities of life” like energy and food production would have had a lasting impact as a country, state, and county. Especially in our county where energy production is unmatched, and food production consistently ranks first or second in the nation. Undoubtedly, the current challenges we face with the price of fuel, food, goods, and everyday needs stem from what can be described as forgetting from a certain leadership class. Another, and probably more accurate word is arrogance. As we say, “history has a way of repeating itself;” thus be prepared and don’t forget! But let’s not kid ourselves, the Ukraine crisis just stepped up this situation, the policies of the certain leadership were already leading us down this path.
At this time, the focus for the agricultural industry is not only on water, which is becoming more and more scarce (mother nature has changed her path again) but on how to obtain vital materials like fertilizer and their associated costs. And let’s not forget how to pay for the skyrocketing price of fuel needed to run equipment. Farmers during the COVID pandemic stepped up and made sure that the country (and all those people therein) still had access to vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats, poultry, and fiber while the country was stuck at home. A few short months later, farmers and ranchers are faced with the prospect of the inability to do what they do better than any producer in the world—producing more with less! The reason for this unfortunate reality is due to high costs slowly chipping away at affordability for years. However, the aggression on Ukraine has, or maybe is, the tipping point.
Where do we go from here? Do we continue to just “deal” with it and hope for the best? I don’t know that answer but doing nothing is unacceptable in the eyes of the Kern County Farm Bureau. Nearly two dozen Republican and Democratic state lawmakers in California recently sent a letter to Governor Newsom. In that letter, the elected officials urged Governor Newsom to consider what California has to offer the country and the state in terms of energy, which would assist the agricultural industry. The letter also urged the Governor to consider the people of the state, also known as their suffering constituents. I would hope that this governor and the president would not seek to become reliant on energy needs from countries like Iran, Venezuela, or Ecuador but instead look within at the highly productive resource economies developed over the last century. Like with food production, our leadership class must realize the importance of supporting those farmers and energy providers who have proven to be there when needed, especially during the COVID pandemic.
As noted earlier, Mother Nature has changed her path again, causing an increase in water scarcity. That increase has caused the Federal Project to announce a 0% to 15% allocation, depending on the contract with the project. The Friant Water Authority came out immediately and stated, “they believe there is ample justification for an allocation higher than 15%.” As we continue into the dryer months of the year, this will lead to water costs increasing and the need to utilize groundwater. These factors may compound the difficulties in complying with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which is a reminder that Kern County sub-basin has 180 days to work through the concerns of the Department of Water Resources. With 30 of those days already gone, we are in the middle of working through those concerns, and again, your engagement is encouraged.
It would appear that the seemingly daily increase of water costs, fertilizer costs, labor costs, and regulatory costs would serve as a tipping point. Only time will tell, and it is times like these that show the toughness and resolve of the American farmer, and at the Kern County Farm Bureau, we will continue to fight for you in these times of unease.