State Ag Leaders Meet in Fresno

October 14, 2009 9:39:40 PM PDT
A day after a powerful storm soaked California, state Ag leaders reminded us the drought is far from over and farmers on the Valley's west-side say their water woes are no closer to being solved.Mud puddles have been left behind but the problem is rain hasn't fallen when it's been most needed these past three years.

The State Board of Food and Agriculture met at the Fresno County Farm Bureau on Wednesday and asked Cal-Fed to help streamline the process for transferring irrigation water around the state.

Board President Al Montna said it's time for answers, "The largest Ag county in the gosh darn nation right here and there's no reason why water isn't coming into this community."

The group is frustrated solutions such as the inter-tie system, which would allow water transfers between state and federal agencies, aren't being acted upon.

State Food and Ag Secretary A.G. Kawamura explained, "This is not about agriculture. This is not about the environment. This is about the future of the state of California that has to be put in place today while we have a chance. "

No farmer is better-equipped to deal with drought than Marvin Meyers of Firebaugh. A few years ago he built his own private water bank to store 20-thousand acre feet of water.

Meyers says Cal-Fed's call for a 10-year water program does nothing for farmers struggling right now. Meyers said, "If the transfer programs are gonna take another year or two years to get this thing to work we're all gonna be out of business."

Water deliveries from the delta have been reduced to protect the endangered delta smelt. Farmers are now making cropping decisions for next year.

Al Montna said, "They're going to their banks now with tremendous water uncertainty. Those bankers are going to be reluctant to loan. Land's going to remain idle."

250-thousand acres have been idled on the Valley's west-side. Farmers say that number will soar if action isn't taken immediately.

A.G. Kawamura said, "Doing nothing is not an option anymore." Kawamura added California could learn a lesson from Australia, where Ag production has dropped 50-percent during a 12-year drought.

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