Valley growers rally for water distribution

The rain is just what we need here in the Valley, but it's certainly not enough to help growers facing the driest season ever.
March 26, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
The rain is just what we need here in the Valley, but it's certainly not enough to help growers facing the driest season ever.

Right now a new poll shows about fifty-percent of likely voters would support a multi-billion dollar plan for long-term water projects in California. That's exactly what valley growers are demanding. More than a thousand growers gathered at a water rally in Tulare.

They say if the government doesn't pump water to help the valley farms with permanent crops, like almonds, stone fruit and citrus many, if not most orchards could go fallow for years.

This call for action is an impassioned demand for water, for help keeping fields lush and farmworkers employed.

"We are mismanaging our resources and we're putting humans at risk," said citrus grower Kelly Brooks. He and his wife rallied with more than a thousand other growers, they're fed up with government and environmental regulation. They just want water.

"None of the EPA regulations require any thought about the economic or human consequence of any decision they make, it's all about the plant or animal they save," Brooks said.

As the crowd roared in support of water relief through this historic drought they also listened to several state and federal employees, who say decisions are made with consideration for farmers. And despite capturing more water than ever before they're stuck with a complex mix of boards, task forces and regulation.

"Right now, it's true survival mode," said Mark Watte, a third generation rancher in Tulare County. He afraid of the nation's largest Ag industry drying up. "It could certainly be overcome," he said. "Certainly we have our drought, but there's other regulatory issues that have really exacerbated the situation we're in."

Full orchards are now being uprooted thanks to concern over zero water allocation. It's something growers fear they will see more of soon. "Nobody wants their orchard to die, so you've got to wait until the very last minute," said Mario Santoyo with the Latino Water Coalition. "But we're not too far away from that point where they're going to have to make those decisions."


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