Farm Workers Rally State Capital for Water

July 23, 2008 9:27:34 PM PDT
Hundreds of Valley farm workers caravanned to the state capital to urge legislators to approve a proposed water bond.Governor Schwarzenegger is proposing a 9.3 billion dollar water plan. Some say it's too expensive at a time when the state is deep in debt. But the Valley farm workers who came here to the capitol say they can't afford to wait any longer for solution.

Hundreds of Valley farm workers converged on the capitol Wednesday morning waving signs and calling for action to address the state's water emergency.

Patricia Fernandez, Mendota: "We need water to farm, for the crops, and to feed our families."

Two years of drought, a record dry spring, and court ordered restrictions have forced many farmers to abandon or cut back their crops. The state has already suffered 245 million dollars in crop losses this year, with Fresno topping the list at 73.5 million. And lost crops mean lost jobs.

Joe Tafoya, San Joaquin: "Thousands of jobs have been lost. Mendota has lost 50 percent of their work force because of it."

Diana Westmoreland Pedrozo, Merced Co. Farm Bureau: "When there's no jobs, there's a loss in the community. And these people suffer. We all suffer. You suffer because your food is going to be more expensive, and it's going to come from overseas."

Governor Scwharzenegger says the solution is a multi-billion dollar water bond to pay for new dams, promote conservation, and improve the system used to move water around the state.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: "Now it's time we continue on and fix our water system once and for all."

Some environmentalists are concerned those changes could harm certain fish species. And some legislators are hesitant to approve the plan while money from a 2006 water bond is still waiting to be spent. But the governor's proposal does have bi-partisan support.

Juan Arambula: "I think it's a very well thought out plan. It's balanced, it's comprehensive, and it's long overdue."

And Fresno Mayor Alan Autry says the busloads of farm workers who traveled to the capital prove it also has the support of the people.

Alan Autry: "What you're seeing is nothing less than the beginning of a rebellion. We have to get this water issue fixed, and fixed now or there's gonna be an awful price to pay."

Governor Schwarzengger says he plans to work with legilative leaders to present a water plan to voters this November.

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