Lt. Governor Attends Water Meeting At World Ag Expo

February 10, 2009 7:01:32 PM PST
While many visitors are drawn to the giant tractors on display, others are more concerned with the state-wide water shortage. Products which help farmers get more crop per drop of water are drawing a great deal of interest at the World Ag Expo. Ray Batten of Valmont Irrigation said, "The big drivers right now are obviously water savings, water efficiency and labor savings." Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi was in Tulare to meet with local water experts and Ag leaders to discuss the state's water crisis. Garamendi said, "The availability of water to keep agriculture going in the Central Valley, particularly the San Joaquin Valley, is in jeopardy."

With the state-wide drought now in its third year, many farmers have been forced to let go hundreds of workers. John Harris of Harris Farms said, "Oh it was really heart-breaking. We had people that had been there 20,30,40 years that we had to lay off. We laid off probably two-thirds of our workforce."

Compounding the problem, federally imposed limits on the amount of water pumped south from the delta. Growers on the Valley's west-side don't expect any water to be delivered. Steve Patricio of Westside Produce said, "We've never seen zero. The true zero allocation has never happened in the 40 plus years of the Central Valley Project."

State Food and Ag Secretary A.G. Kawamura said the World Ag Expo is an ideal place to share ideas. Kawamura said, "We're trying to learn hard about Australia's horrible drought. They are in a 10-year drought. We are in a three-year drought so our learning opportunity is what would they have done differently if they could see where they are today."

Farmers will use available water to first irrigate permanent crops like almonds, pistachios and grapes. Less fruit and vegetables will be grown in the Valley, which means they'll ultimately cost you more.

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