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New CA reduction in water use does not apply to the agriculture industry

By Denise Valenzuela

Posted in

California is known for its agriculture industry.  The state provides 3/4 of the countries total agricultural output and is a major source of employment for thousands of people. Because of the importance of our agricultural industry the recent water reduction mandates are not applicable to farms.  Days after taking the unprecedented step of ordering mandatory water-use reductions throughout his state, California Gov. Jerry Brown defended his executive order’s treatment of the state’s agriculture industry and its use of water in agriculture.

Brown said California’s farms are “providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America,” as well as jobs for the state’s most vulnerable residents. Though agriculture accounts for only 2 percent of California’s economy, it consumes 80 percent of the state’s water.  For this reason some people feel that the ag industry should also play by the same rules as citizens and businesses when reducing water use footprints.

The Democratic governor also emphasized how much agriculture has already been hurt by the state’s drought. The farmers have fallowed hundreds of thousands of acres of land, They’re pulling up vines and trees. Farm workers who are very low end of the economic scale here are out of work. There are people in agriculture areas that are really suffering. Brown said shutting water allocations off would displace hundreds of thousands of people.

Mandating water use reductions for farmers would force the state to slow food production and force us to import it from some other places which would hurt the economy and send dollars to other parts of the country and world.

Despite his defense of the state’s powerful agricultural industry, the governor may implement changes to“senior water rights” – those farms that received their permits before the current system came into place in 1914, allowing them to buy water at a fraction of the cost everyone else pays.

The current system is archaic and may be examined if the drought continues.  Some people have a right to more water than others. That’s historic. That’s built into the legal framework of California, but if things continue at this level, that’s probably going to be examined.

The recent legislation emphasizes the severity of the drought and the measures we must take.  These mandates will test the state’s ability to work together. This executive order should serve as a wake-up call for Californians given that voluntary measures failed last year.

 

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