Carolee Krieger has an oped piece in today’s Fresno Bee that sums up the case for not spending tens of millions of dollars on an unproven selenium extraction facility and instead “retiring” westside ag land.
“Not only is this [land fallowing] the best approach; according to the U. S. Geological Survey, it’s the single effective solution. The agency has stated unequivocally that reducing irrigation is the only way to eliminate drainage problems on the westside.”
Soon, the obligatory response from advocates of SJV agriculture will appear, making their by now familiar two major points:
1/ The feds are obliged to “provide drainage services” to the westside’s toxic domain. From the westside’s point of view, this is just the government spending money doing what they said they would do decades ago.
2/ Taking productive farmland out of production will raise the cost of food families put on their dinner tables.
Both of these points may be objectively accurate, but that does not mean that they are morally valid.
Just yesterday, the Westlands Water District advised its constituents that they should plan for receiving 20% of the irrigation water they want. Blaming endangered fish, this advice went out with the caveat that this was how it was, but now how it should be. “This notice is not intended to suggest that a 20 percent allocation is either reasonable or acceptable,” Westlands officials said.
“We will never forget,” or something to that effect. We will unmake environmental protection laws to suit our purposes, said Mark Cowin:
“These ongoing crises will continue to reveal themselves until we fundamentally change the way we manage the delta,” Mark Cowin of the California Department of Water Resources told reporters during a media briefing last week.
Or until we fundamentally change the way we manage toxic farmland, Mark…
The question of course is Who will give up their water so that WWD can have more of it? Show of hands, please? Hmmm ... no one seems anxious to help WWD out. The fish haven’t been heard from. Yes, scarcity is another reason why land retirement makes good sense.
Another is that good form of libertarianism. One WWD farmer read the writing on the wall prospectively (every crisis is an opportunity, after all), and has shown initiative in the face of scarcity, has had his ag pack turn on him. This is unacceptable.
I recently interviewed a representative of this farmer. According to him, the farm was getting only 10% of the water it needed to farm everything. So, after crunching some numbers, he decided to change course, and spent years in the permitting process for a proposed photovoltaic farm development on just 20 acres of his several hundred.
Well, the proposal was effectively scuttled by a lawsuit based on a specious interpretation of the Williamson Act.
Sabotaged by no less an entity than the oligarchs at the Fresno County Farm Bureau.
I’d like to know where WWD’s Birmingham and CFWC’s Mike Wade stand on the idea of farm institutions eating their own.
Broadening the extent of the territory involved, and in that context, I want to ask a question:
Whose responsibility is it to clean up groundwater contaminated by dosing land with immense amounts of animal waste, pesticides and herbicides, all in the name of cheap tomatoes? The industries, called farming, that have done the dosing? The government? No one, since people “choose” to live in impoverished communities?
Would public opinion be more opinionated if the contaminated groundwater was in Marin County, with the prodigious amounts of digital animation at Skywalker Ranch being the offending culprit?
Would public opinion be more opinionated if the offending agricultural element was piles of cow manure at the edge of a pricey subdivision in Laguna?
“Providing drainage services” to the westside is just the tip of the iceberg. Carolee Krieder knows this.
The impacts of large scale industrial polluting masking as pastoral farming are somehow not on the radar screen of the body politic. Why is this persistent myth of a bygone idea of American life permitted such deference in the face of such obvious flaws?