By John Moore, President, Kern County Farm Bureau
Hopefully by the time this article is printed in the next edition of the Valley Ag Voice we have line of sight on the next President of the United States, but as litigation proceeds any sort of quick decision is unlikely. Whatever the case may be, agricultures challenges persist. California agriculture is at a crossroads, and the next administration will have to reckon with decades of deferred maintenance on our water infrastructure projects and the frivolous court battles exhausted between the state of California and the federal government.
The aging water infrastructure systems of the state and federal projects continue to put undue strain on agricultural and municipal water users in a time when bolstering water supplies is paramount for the sustainability of valley groundwater. The time to shift the paradigm from a myopic view of groundwater and demonizing “cherry picked” surface water delivery systems to a more holistic multi-beneficial use perspective is yesterday. Unfortunately, the following statement is controversial: certain systems (i.e. Friant-Kern Canal) depend on investment from ALL of its members and water users if the valley is to ever come into balance per the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The fact that water markets may very well become just-as-or-more lucrative as production farming is not overlooked. The county shareholders, agencies, districts, and the landowners who fund those organizations must do their best to stay on the same page. This means when there is a bill like SB 559, local shareholder dissent (this actually happened) is detrimental not only to the direct beneficiaries of the repairs, but the basin as a whole. Together the basin will prosper, or together the basin will fail.
The new federal biological opinions signed by President Trump on February 19th, 2020 were a huge step in the right direction for increased water deliveries to the south of the Delta. Unfortunately, and notoriously, after the announcement the state of California immediately filed a claim with its adversary, the Trump Administration. The state needs reminding that the biological opinions were kickstarted by the Obama administration. If there is a Biden administration, the hope is that cooler heads will prevail, and the new administration will honor the biological opinions started by 44 and signed by 45. If, by the time this is printed, there is a Trump administration (and likely civil war), California leaders will either continue the fool’s errand of litigation or begin making real progress for water transfers in our battered state. It’s not beyond this writer to admit that these scenarios are optimistic, but that is the nature of a farmer. Whichever scenario plays out, recognizing the value of projects such as the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint especially as it corresponds to the Governor’s Water Resiliency Portfolio is a meaningful step in the right direction for the multi-beneficial use of surface water supplies made available by California’s snowpack and rainfall. The future of the valley and southern California municipalities depends on collaborative approaches, and despite some expected pushback those processes are well underway.
The crossroads are in front of California, and the path is clear. The Kern County Farm Bureau vows to hold accountable those in the levers of power. Our organization will pursue success not only for Kern County, but for the incredible agricultural industry that has made California an international powerhouse. We encourage you to stay involved and reach out to us at any time with questions regarding the industry.