Western Drought Will Impact All Americans

Congress Seeks Solutions

By  Family Farm Alliance

The U.S. is facing yet another record-breaking drought year in the West. Farmers and ranchers in some of these areas are receiving little to no water from federal water projects as they enter the dry summer months.

Meanwhile, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has decreased and destabilized worldwide agricultural commodity production and availability. Rising input costs, combined with the ongoing energy and supply chain crises, continue to impact food supply and demand.

“We’re seeing reports that the war in Ukraine, sanctions and destroyed ports could take nearly 30% of the world’s grain supply out of production or off the market this year,” Family Farm Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen recently said at a Congressional drought forum hosted by House GOP Members.

All of the above factors have combined to cause significant inflation – food prices alone have increased 9 percent this year – that will impact all Americans.

Loss of Agricultural Water Means Less Food on Grocery Store Shelves

Many Western farmers rely on federal Bureau of Reclamation projects for irrigation water. Over the decades the operations for several of these projects – including the Klamath Project (California and Oregon) and California’s Central Valley Project – have been significantly impacted by government decisions that disproportionately direct water to perceived environmental needs.

Every acre of farmland taken out of production equates to a loss of real food that could help replenish grocery store shelves that may soon run short of once-plentiful food products.

“When people talk about taking millions of acres of California farmland out of production, those are just numbers,” said Bill Diedrich, a fourth-generation California farmer said at the recent Congressional drought forum. “Let me put them in perspective for you. For every acre that is left unplanted because of a lack of irrigation water, it is the equivalent of 50,000 salads that will not be available to consumers.”

Mr. Diedrich also serves as President of the California Farm Water Coalition.

“Our food supply is just as much a national security issue as energy,” he said. “If we fail to recognize that, we put the country at risk.”

Sacramento Valley Farmers and Business Leaders Talk About This Dry Year 

As NCWA President David Guy recently wrote, California farmers are no strangers to drought, although one of the driest years in California has widespread and significant impacts in the Sacramento Valley.

To provide some context for the dry year and the economic impacts, see the recent paper prepared by Dr. Dan Sumner at UC Davis entitled, Continued Drought in 2022 Ravages California’s Sacramento Valley EconomyIn sum, the report suggests there will be 14,000 lost jobs, with $1.315B in impacts for those who rely on agriculture in the Sacramento Valley.

In a recent Ingrained Podcast, Jim Morris was able to catch up with several farmers and business leaders on the west-side of the Sacramento Valley to talk about the dry year and the impacts they will see this year.

“We’re down to 25 percent of normal rice acreage,” said grower Kurt Richter, who farms in Colusa County. “For a westside operation, that figure is actually very high this year. I’m the only person I know who is on the west side who is even planting rice at all.”

We encourage you to listen to the Ingrained Podcast to hear firsthand how the dry year will impact people and businesses in the region.

Water Allotment to Klamath Basin Farmers Hindering Food Production Amid High Market

Many farmers across the Klamath Basin are currently in the stages of planting their crops following the first few water deliveries from irrigation districts. However, with only 50,000 acre-feet of surface water allocated by Reclamation, one farmer says the impacts of another low production year will continue to hurt the community and the farming industry.

“It’s about to get a lot worse because the entire West is in this situation and food scarcity is going to be a real thing this year,” said Scott Seus, a farmer, Tulelake Irrigation District board member, and member of the Family Farm Alliance.

CLICK HERE for the interview Scott did with CBS affiliate KTVL TV (Medford, Oregon).  

Clearly, federal management of water has become too inflexible in places like California and Central Oregon, where a frog protected by the ESA impacts water deliveries to Deschutes River Basin producers.

“We must restore balance in federal decision-making regarding water allocation, particularly in times of drought,” said Alliance President Patrick O’Toole, a rancher from Wyoming. “This is one of several solutions needed to maintain food security for the nation and the economic wellbeing of the Western landscape.”

Congress Proposes Measures to Increase Western Water Supplies

Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress bill are advancing additional measures that would increase water supply and modernize water infrastructure in California and other areas of the Western U.S.

A suite of new water supply enhancement projects and demand management programs can also help alleviate the stress on existing Western water supplies. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law last November by President Biden, provides a once-in-a-generation federal investment towards this end. Legislative proposals made in the House and Senate seek to further improve water supplies for the West.

In February 2021, U.S. Representative David G. Valadao introduced the Responsible, No-Cost Extension of Western Water Infrastructure Improvements, or RENEW WIIN, Act, a no-cost, clean extension of operations and storage provisions of the WIIN Act (P.L. 114-322).

“Food prices are at a record high, and people are struggling to put food on the table,” Rep. Valadao recently wrote in a recent blog, titled “Severe drought threatens America’s farmers and food supply”. “The ongoing war in Ukraine is destabilizing worldwide agricultural commodity production. Experts are warning about the very real possibility of a global food shortage. Now more than ever, we need to do everything in our power to support our domestic farmers, ranchers, and producers to provide much needed stability to our global food supply.”

The RENEW WIIN Act – supported by the Alliance and several of its member agencies – would extend the general and operations provisions of Subtitle J of the WIIN Act and extend the provision requiring consultation on coordinated operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. The legislation would also extend the authorization of appropriations for water storage projects that the Secretary of the Interior finds feasible.

“Making sure our agriculture producers have access to safe, clean, and reliable water is critical,” said Rep. Valadao.

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on May 17 introduced S.4231, the Support to Rehydrate the Environment, Agriculture and Municipalities Act or STREAM Act, a bill that would increase water supply and modernize water infrastructure in California and throughout the West.

“If we don’t take action now to improve our drought resilience, it’s only going to get worse,” said Senator Feinstein. “We need an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to meet this challenge, including increasing our water supply, incentivizing projects that provide environmental benefits and drinking water for disadvantaged communities, and investing in environmental restoration efforts.”

Click here for the press release issued by Senator Feinstein’s office, which includes links to a one-page summary of the bill, a section-by-section analysis, and a list of supporters, which includes the Family Farm Alliance.

“We appreciate the increased attention that many Western Members of Congress recognize the importance of modernizing and expanding our water infrastructure,” said Mr. Keppen. “There is still time for all of our state and federal officials to right this ship and recognize the importance of storing water and growing food with it.”

2022-05-23T09:24:15-07:00May 23rd, 2022|

Water Measurement and Reporting Courses Offered by UCCE May 26

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

California water-rights holders are required by state law to measure and report the water they divert from surface streams. For people who wish to take the water measurements themselves, the University of California Cooperative Extension is offering a virtual training to receive certification on May 26.

At the workshop, participants can expect to

  • clarify reporting requirements for ranches.
  • understand what meters are appropriate for different situations.
  • learn how to determine measurement equipment accuracy.
  • develop an understanding of measurement weirs.
  • learn how to calculate and report volume from flow data.

“We are limiting the number participants for the water measurement training to 30 people per session,” said Larry Forero, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor. “If you need this training, please register soon.”

The scheduled trainings will be held Thursday, May 26, at two locations:

  • Redding at Shasta College Farm.  Registration is required and costs $25. To register visit https://ceshasta.ucanr.edu. For more information, contact Larry Forero (lcforero@ucanr.edu) or Sara Jaimes (sbjaimes@ucanr.edu) or by calling the UCCE office in Shasta County at (530) 224-4900. Training will begin at 8 a.m. and conclude at 11:30 am.
  • Woodland at the UC Cooperative Extension at 70 Cottonwood Street. Registration costs $20. To register, visit https://cecapitolcorridor.ucanr.edu. For more information, contact Morgan Doran at mpdoran@ucanr.edu or the UCCE Yolo County office at (530) 666-8143. Training will begin at 2:30 p.m. and conclude at 5:30 pm.

Background:

Senate Bill 88 requires all water right holders who have previously diverted or intend to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year (riparian and pre-1914 claims), or who are authorized to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year under a permit, license or registration, to measure and report the water they divert. Detailed information on the regulatory requirements for measurement and reporting is available on the State Water Resources Control Board Reporting and Measurement Regulation webpage. The legislation requires that installation and certification of measurement methods for diversion (or storage) greater than or equal to 100-acre feet annually be approved by an engineer/contractor/professional.

California Cattlemen’s Association worked with Assemblyman Frank Bigelow on a bill that allows a self-certification option. Assembly Bill 589 became law on January 1, 2018. This bill, until Jan. 1, 2023, allows any diverter who has completed this instructional course on measurement devices and methods administered by the University of California Cooperative Extension, and passes a proficiency test, to be considered a qualified individual when installing and maintaining devices or implementing methods of measurement.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 California counties. Through research and Cooperative Extension in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, economic and youth development, our mission is to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu and support our work at donate.ucanr.edu.

2022-04-27T13:22:26-07:00April 27th, 2022|

Governor Newsom Signs Executive Order in Response to Western Drought

By Kahn, Soares & Conway, LLP

As California endures the driest first three months of a year in the state’s recorded history, and simultaneously enters a third year of drought, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an Executive Order (Order) to strengthen conservation efforts. According to the Administration’s press release, the Order calls “on local water suppliers to move to Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans, which require locally-appropriate actions that will conserve water across all sectors and directing the State Water Resources Control Board to consider a ban on the watering of decorative grass at businesses and institutions.”

The Governor is “encouraging suppliers, where appropriate, to consider going above and beyond the Level 2 of their water shortage contingency plans, activating more ambitious measures [and]… has ordered state agencies to submit funding proposals to support the state’s short- and long-term drought response, including emergency assistance to communities and households facing drought-related water shortages, facilitating groundwater recharge and wastewater recycling, improvements in water use efficiency, protecting fish and wildlife, and minimizing drought-related economic disruption.”

Today’s Order also includes the following provisions:

  • Ensuring Vulnerable Communities Have Drinking Water
  • Cuts red tape so communities that need access to emergency hauled or bottled water can get it immediately.
  • Safeguarding Groundwater Supplies
  • Requires local permitting authorities to coordinate with Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to ensure new proposed wells do not compromise existing wells or infrastructure, as 85 percent of public water systems rely heavily on groundwater during drought.
  • Streamlines permitting for groundwater recharge projects that help to refill aquifers when rains come.
  • Protecting Vulnerable Fish And Wildlife
  • Expedites state agency approvals for necessary actions to protect fish and wildlife where drought conditions threaten their health and survival.
  • Preventing Illegal Water Diversions
  • Directs the Water Board to expand site inspections in order to determine whether illegal diversions are occurring.

For more information on the state’s response to the drought, click here. For any questions, please reach out to Louie Brown at lbrown@kscsacramento.com.

2022-03-29T13:28:27-07:00March 29th, 2022|

New Report Finds Over 35,000 Local Jobs Rely on Westlands Water District Agricultural Production

Water Restrictions Have Wide Reaching, Negative Impacts on Farms, Local Communities, and the Nation

By Westlands Water District

A new analysis highlights the significant, positive economic impact that agricultural production within the Westlands Water District has on the State of California and the country as a whole. The Economic Impact of Westlands Water District (Study), conducted by Michael A. Shires, Ph.D., outlines the far-reaching consequences of inadequate and unreliable water supplies on economies and communities.

The Study analyzes the economic impacts of the agricultural activities occurring within Westlands Water District. The Study also investigates how challenges such as water supply restrictions, climate change, inflation, supply chain disruption, and the COVID-19 pandemic can seriously threaten the quantity and quality of food available to the people of this nation. Taken together, these challenges underscore the important role that California’s agricultural production plays in national security and why protecting America’s domestic food production is essential.

According to the Study, on an annual basis, agricultural production within Westlands Water District is responsible for generating over $4.7 billion in economic activity and supporting over 35,000 jobs across the regional economy. These jobs produce the wages, tax revenue, and consumer spending that drive economic activity throughout the state.

“The farms within Westlands Water District are significant suppliers of fresh produce and other agricultural products both to the nation and the world. Activities in Westlands directly and indirectly employ and support tens of thousands of households and creates billions of dollars of economic value,” said Dr. Shires. “While there are a range of complex, modern policy and economic crises that may influence the level of that production, there is no real domestic alternative for production of these critical agricultural products.”

The farms in Westlands and the associated share of the country’s food supply, are at risk. While farms in Westlands continue to produce billions in economic activity, support communities in the San Joaquin Valley, and employ thousands of farmworkers and growers, we recognize that this production – and the livelihoods of those behind it – is highly dependent on water availability,” said Tom Birmingham, General Manager of the Westlands Water District.

When farmers do not have adequate water supplies, they are forced to make difficult decisions. They fallow otherwise highly productive land, and, in some instances, abandon planted acres because they lack water to continue irrigating their fields. Those decisions have widespread impacts. The Study found a “striking” correlation between “poverty levels in [Fresno and Kings] counties…with the shortfalls in water deliveries from the [Central Valley Project] to the Westlands Water District.” Poverty rates in these two counties are directly related to the water supply available to farmers in the District – when the District receives little to no water, more people in those counties suffer from poverty, and when the District receives a higher water allocation, the counties’ economic stability improves.

Further, with no domestic alternative for the agricultural contributions of the region, the economic impacts and negative implications of an inadequate water supply extend well beyond the local community. “At a time where instability around the globe has had significant impacts on the entire continent’s access to core crops like wheat, corn, and sunflower oil – on top of rising inflation and fuel costs – protecting the Nation’s domestic agricultural production capacity is fundamental to the security of the United States,” said Tom Birmingham.

“The bottom line is that much of the food in your pantry, refrigerator, and on your dinner table continues to be available because farms in California continue to provide some 80 percent of the nation’s supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. If this domestic production is curtailed, it will make the nation dependent on foreign sources which are, in turn, much more subject to supply chain, transportation, and quality problems,” Dr. Shires said. “If water supplies continue to be uncertain and volatile, there will be irreparable harm to already disadvantaged communities in the region and the acreage available to continue growing this produce will be significantly constrained.”

To read the entire report, visit: wwd.ca.gov/news-and-reports/economic-impact/

2022-03-16T10:50:59-07:00March 16th, 2022|

Westlands Water District Statement on Initial CVP Water Allocation

Today the Bureau of Reclamation announced an initial allocation of 0% for Westlands Water District and other south-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) irrigation contractors. This is the fourth time in the last decade the south-of-Delta irrigation contractors have received a 0% allocation. Despite significant precipitation in the fall and early winter, the 2021-22 water year is likely to be classified as dry. January and February were exceptionally dry. The District is disappointed with the allocation but is aware that hydrologic conditions, including low CVP reservoir storage conditions at the beginning of the water year and record low precipitation in January and February, and Reclamation’s obligation to meet Delta water quality and outflow standards imposed by the State Water Resources Control Board, prevent Reclamation from making water available under the District’s contract.

Within Westlands, the continued drought conditions in 2021 resulted in over 200,000 acres fallowed, countless lost jobs, and thousands of acres of food unharvested. The circumstances in 2021 and those facing us in 2022 demonstrate the need invest in infrastructure to better manage the State’s water resources, which includes increased capacity to capture water when its available for transport and use in times of drought. California needs new storage, both surface and groundwater, and improved conveyance facilities. The state must also establish effective water policies that enable adaptive management of the system to maximize the beneficial uses of water throughout the State. Despite the current lack of precipitation, the District is focusing on comprehensive approaches to ensure a sustainable water future.

In spite of the current drought, the District continues to plan, pursue, support, and implement regional and local projects to ensure a sustainable water future for the families that live and work in and around the District. And, as always, the District will look to the coming months with the hope of improved precipitation and an increased allocation.

2022-02-23T12:21:51-08:00February 23rd, 2022|

Congressman Valadao Statement on Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project Initial 2022 Water Allocation

Today, Congressman David G. Valadao released the following statement in response to the Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) initial 2022 water allocation announcement for Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors. Reclamation announced an initial allocation of 0% for South-of-Delta agricultural repayment and water service contractors. They also announced an initial allocation for Municipal and Industrial repayment and water service contractors of only 25% of their historic use.

“This unacceptably low water allocation is a devastating blow to small community agricultural producers throughout the Central Valley. The livelihoods of these people and our global food supply depend on the industry,” said Congressman Valadao. “The Central Valley farming community has endured drought conditions, burdensome regulations, and below adequate water allocations for years. This community is resilient, but the fact remains that our farms will not survive without a reliable water supply for South-of-Delta agriculture. This dire situation emphasizes the need for more storage capacity so we can capture water when we have surplus. California’s water supply allocations must reflect the needs of these farmers and producers so they can continue providing food for the nation. This is alarming and unwelcome news to communities that have continued to suffer from issues like the ongoing supply chain crisis.”

Central Valley agriculture contractors rely on meaningful allocations from Reclamation for their yearly planning. Central Valley farmers and communities have endured disproportionately low water allocations for many years, with contractors receiving well below their contracted supply even during wet years. As a lifelong dairy farmer, Congressman Valadao has experienced firsthand the challenges and frustrations surrounding this issue. He has consistently called for CVP allocations to reflect the needs of the agriculture community, the backbone of the Central Valley economy. Read more on Congressman Valadao’s work on California water issues here.

2022-02-23T11:38:17-08:00February 23rd, 2022|

Dry January Conditions Return Snowpack to Near Average Levels

By Department of Water Resources

The Department of Water Resources conducted the second snow survey of the season at Phillips Station. Following a dry January, the manual survey recorded 48.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 19 inches, which is 109 percent of average for this location for this date. The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack and is a key component of DWR’s water supply forecast. Statewide, the snowpack is 92 percent of average for this date.

“We are definitely still in a drought. A completely dry January shows how quickly surpluses can disappear,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “The variability of California weather proves that nothing is guaranteed and further emphasizes the need to conserve and continue preparing for a possible third dry year.”

Snowmelt during January has been minimal. However, with little to no accumulation of snow during January, snowpack levels are closer to average February 1 conditions, meaning that a return of winter storms in the Sierra Nevada is needed during February and March to remain at or above normal levels.

Regionally, the Southern Sierra snowpack is not faring as well as the Northern Sierra. Water supply forecasts for the south San Joaquin Valley are below average due to the lack of rain and snow in this region.

“These dry January conditions demonstrate the importance of continuing to improve our forecasting abilities and why these snow surveys are essential,” said Sean de Guzman, Manager of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit. “While we always hope for a generous snowpack, DWR’s ongoing investments in forecasting techniques will help the state better prepare for both drought and flood conditions.”

In light of last year’s poor runoff, DWR has increased its efforts to improve climate and runoff forecasting by strengthening its collaboration with partner agencies and academia and by investing in proven technologies to improve data collection and hydrologic modeling. One example is DWR’s investment in remote snowpack measurements through the Aerial Remote Sensing of Snow program by partnering with Airborne Snow Observatories, Inc. (ASO). Data from ASO has proven to be the most accurate assessment of snowpack conditions that, when coupled with newer, sophisticated runoff models, will improve runoff forecast accuracy.

Although early season storms helped alleviate some drought impacts, a lack of storms in January has underscored the need for Californians to continue focusing on conservation. Most of California’s reservoirs are still below average, and groundwater supplies are still recovering. California still has two months left of its typical wet season and will require more storms in those months to end the year at average.

DWR conducts four media-oriented snow surveys at Phillips Station each winter near the first of each month, January through April and, if necessary, one additional in May.

2022-02-02T13:07:34-08:00February 2nd, 2022|

The Importance of California’s Agricultural Water Supplies

We cannot accommodate serious discussion on the demand side of water questions without working on the supply side

By Chris Scheuring, Special to CalMatters

Wendell Berry famously said that eating is an agricultural act. That makes all of us into farmers, and nowhere is that more true than in water terms.

For farming is irreducibly the process of mixing dirt, water and sunshine to bring forth from the ground what we need to eat. And no matter who you are, it’s true:  somebody, somewhere, must devote a lot of water to the process of feeding you.

Some have been sidestepping this fact in the ongoing policy evolutions over the way we must capture, store and move water in California. Yet even the most ardent urban environmentalist finds herself at the local grocery store or the farmers’ market – filling her basket with California-grown nuts, fruits and vegetables.

Some of these crops can only be grown here, or in one of the few similar agricultural climates around the world, in an irrigation-based agricultural economy.

Take almonds, now and then the whipping-post of California water use: They cannot be grown in a place where it rains in the summer. Iowa, for example, is awfully cold in February – which is precisely when almonds need mild Mediterranean winter weather for their blossoms to be pollinated. Mediterranean crops need a Mediterranean climate, which usually means mild winters and hot, dry summers.

Beyond that, the case for California agriculture is made by our farming practices and their regulatory backdrop, whatever natural reticence California farmers may have about being regulated. We do it more efficiently here, and with more oversight, than in most alternative agricultural venues around the world. I would compare a California avocado favorably to an avocado anywhere else in the world, on those terms.

That’s why I have always thought that a subtle strain of NIMBYism runs through the retrograde ideas that some have about “reforming” agricultural water rights here and constraining the water projects that ultimately deliver food to the world.  With nearly 8 billion people on the planet, pinching off California’s agricultural water supplies is a game of whack-a-mole which will cause the same water issues to arise elsewhere.

Without question, we must continue on our trajectory of making California farming more water-efficient. If you have been watching California agriculture for a generation, you already know that much of the landscape has transitioned from old-fashioned flood and sprinkler irrigation to more efficient drip and micro-sprinkler techniques – even in the case of row crops. We must continue this path; new technologies related to irrigation continue to be developed, including better monitoring of applied water and crop water use.

We must also recognize inherent conflicts between agricultural water use and the flora and fauna that are dependent upon our rivers and streams.

Gone are the days in California when a grizzly bear might paw a salmon out of the Suisun Marsh, but we can work together to find non-zero-sum water and habitat solutions that would take advantage of opportunities to protect and rehabilitate species of concern, where it can be done without disproportionate human impact. Again and again through public enactment, California has demonstrated its will to keep the environment in mind as we move forward.

Further, we must also carry forward processes to develop new water supplies for California’s farms and growing cities, whether those are storage facilities above ground or below ground, or stormwater capture and aquifer recharge, or desalination or recycling. In the face of a changing hydrology and the expected loss of snowpack, we simply cannot accommodate serious discussion on the demand side of water questions without working on the supply side. Otherwise, we are chasing a receding goalpost – and we will not get there.

Finally, remember that farming is not a question of “if,” but “where.” We’re going to eat – all of us around the world – and we’re going to farm in order to do so. So we should protect California’s agricultural water supplies, because the case for California water being used on California’s farms is strong.

Chris Scheuring is senior counsel for water policy at the California Farm Bureau. He is also a family farmer in Yolo County, growing walnuts, almonds and pistachios.

2022-01-11T10:05:19-08:00January 11th, 2022|

New Sacramento Museum Educates Residents About Farms’ Water Needs

Farm Credit helps fund three exhibits at Museum of Science and Curiosity that demonstrate why farms need water and how farmers are conserving this precious resource

Despite recent heavy rains, California is still experiencing one of its worst droughts in history, so reminding the public and policy makers that food does not grow without water is a critical need for the state’s agricultural community. That’s why Mike Wade and Farm Credit were excited to see the new SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity open recently.

The $52 million state-of-the-art science center in Sacramento contains dozens of interactive exhibits that allows visitors to explore the wonders of science, technology, engineering and math and specifically address global and local issues relating energy, water, health, nature, space and design engineering.

Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, said the three water exhibits the coalition is sponsoring bring home the fact that water is essential to grow our food and that California farmers are leading the world in conserving the precious resource.

“The exhibits have been very popular with museum visitors so far. Both students and adults have been taking turns finding out about the water it takes to grow our food and how farmers use the latest technology to conserve it,” Wade said.

“It’s always been part of our mission to educate people about the connection between farm water and their food supply. It’s important that everyone know that farmers are using water in an efficient manner and that as consumers, we all depend on farmers.”

American AgCredit, CoBank and Farm Credit West collectively pledged $75,000 over five years to help build and maintain the exhibits. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

Wade said one exhibit consists of a touchscreen monitor on which people can drag food items from an illustrated list to your plate. Once they’ve made their selections, they can click the “eat it” button and the display will show the nutrition value and water demand of the foods on the plate. And that in turn shows participants how close they are to meeting their nutritional needs and the amount of water needed to produce that food.

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said the exhibit will be an important learning tool for visitors.

“The exhibit helps people understand that it takes a significant amount of water to grow the food we eat. It’s eye-opening to select the right foods to eat and then see at the end of the game how much water it takes to grow that food,” he said.

Another interactive exhibit demonstrates how technology is helping farmers use just the right amount of water to grow their crops, said Curt Hudnutt, President and CEO of American AgCredit.

“The More Crop Per Drop exhibit lets visitors irrigate their field with a set water budget without giving them any information about how much water the crops need,” Hudnutt said. “Then they can try again after getting information from water sensors and then a third time with additional information from drones that pinpoint areas that have enough water and areas that need more. In most cases, participants will do better with additional information, making this a great way of showing how farmers are already at the cutting edge of technology.”

Wade said the third exhibit is a map of California that shows the state’s major water projects and conveyance facilities.

“The highlight here are quotes from five farmers from the five major ag regions who describe how storage and conveyance have made it possible for them to farm,” he said.

The exhibits will be on display for 15 years at the museum, located in a building that once housed a century-old powerplant on the banks of the Sacramento River. The building was rebuilt and modernized and a new wing added that includes a planetarium, offices, and a café. The agricultural water interactive exhibits are part of the Water Challenge Gallery, located in the historic power plant section of the museum.

Wade said Farm Credit’s support has been extremely valuable in making the exhibits a reality.

“None of this would be possible without Farm Credit and the other donors giving so generously,” he said. “Educating the public is a shared responsibility of the entire agricultural industry, and Farm Credit is leading by example.”

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About Farm Credit: American AgCredit, CoBank and Farm Credit West are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. We specialize in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

About the California Farm Water Coalition: CFWC is a non-profit, educational organization formed in 1989 to provide fact-based information on farm water issues to the public. The organization works to help consumers, elected representatives, government officials and the media make the connection between farm water and our food supply. For more information, visit www.farmwater.org.

2022-01-04T14:33:46-08:00January 4th, 2022|

Farm Credit: Water for Food is Critical

Cultivate California Educates Residents About Farms’ Need For Water

Exceptional drought conditions mean Farm Credit’s support is crucial, as reminding people about link between water and their food is more important than ever

California is in the middle of one of its worst droughts on record. The federal government reports that showed that nearly half of the state – including the entire Central Valley – is in an exceptional drought as of mid-October. Overall, 2021 has been the ninth driest year in California since accurate records began being kept 127 years ago. Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, is at 23% of capacity and Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir, is at 22% of capacity.

No one knows how long these dry conditions will last, but the most recent drought lasted for 376 weeks, from December 2011 to March 2019. And the National Weather Service currently forecasts that drought conditions are likely to continue in California as a weak La Niña effect will likely see storms diverted to the Pacific Northwest this winter. And all of that is bad news for California agriculture.

Which is why Cultivate California’s program aimed at educating Californians about the connection between consumers, the food they love and the water needed to grow it is so important as its messaging reaches 16 million people a year.

Mike Wade, the program’s executive director, said getting out early this year with messaging about water was essential to counter messaging from other groups.

“Californians continue to get inundated with negative messages about farming,” Wade said. “The Cultivate California program was designed to help bolster the natural support people have for agriculture and farms and to continue providing them with facts and information about the connection between their food and the water supply.”

The need to counter misinformation about farmers’ use of water is why Farm Credit has been one of the program’s largest donors since 2018, said Curt Hudnutt, president and CEO of American AgCredit.

American AgCredit, along with CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit, collectively contribute $100,000 a year to help Cultivate California inform Californians. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

“This year, many California farms had just 5% of their water supply this year to grow our food,” Hudnutt said. “Cultivate California is one of the most successful groups we have to educate people about the impacts the drought has on our food supply, and the need to improve our water storage to protect all of us in future droughts, and we are proud to help support them in their efforts.”

Wade said one important message this year is that farmers and irrigation districts need to have flexibility to transfer water supplies to areas in greater need without burdensome red tape. And he said improving the state’s water supply system is crucial.

“We need to look long-term, which we should have done after the last drought,” he said. “Eighteen trillion gallons of water fell in February 2019 when the last drought ended, but we didn’t have the facilities to capture it and recharge our groundwater so we would have more supply available now. Hopefully our leaders will act so next time a drought occurs we will be better prepared.”

Rob Faris, President and CEO, Golden State Farm Credit, said it’s essential that more Californians are exposed to one of Cultivate California’s key messages – that the state’s farmers are producing more food but using much less water.

“The value of the state’s farm production increased by 38% between 1980 and 2015 while our farmers used 14% less water,” Faris said. “Farmers continually invest in irrigation technology, such as new drip and micro-irrigation systems, soil moisture monitoring, remote sensing, and computerized irrigation controls. Today, nearly half of our 8.4 million acres of irrigated farmland use drip, micro or subsurface irrigation, and more savings are on the way. Farm Credit is committed to help our members finance these improvements.”

Wade said Farm Credit’s support has been invaluable.

“The support we get from Farm Credit is amazing and critically important,” he said. “It has helped attract other supporters as well, and the support and leadership we get from Farm Credit has been instrumental in helping this program succeed.”

2021-11-09T17:50:30-08:00November 9th, 2021|
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