By Peter Hecht, California Farm Bureau
California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson opened the organization’s 104th Annual Meeting in Monterey Monday by calling on policymakers to build critical infrastructure to protect water resources and allow America’s most important agricultural sector to continue to thrive.
“The management of scarcity is failing,” Johansson told the gathering. “It’s time now to reimplement the management of bounty, which made California great.”
California’s nearly 70,000 farms and ranches produce more than 400 commodities as the nation’s leading food producer. But a recent University of California, Merced, study estimates that an additional 750,000 acres of farmland in the state were fallowed this year due a third year of drought and cuts in state and federal water deliveries to agriculture.
Johansson stressed that such an outcome may have been avoided had California delivered on the $7.1 billion water infrastructure bond approved by state voters in 2014. He said the state has failed to update its water system to meet the needs of California farms and communities as well as the challenges of a drier climate.
The consequences for agriculture are aggravated, Johansson said, by policies that stem from a mindset of working within the limits of scarcity—of adapting to a changing environment by paring down California’s agricultural potential.
Instead, Johansson said, new water storage and groundwater recharge projects can capture and store water in wet years for dry years and help protect and grow California’s food production.
“Change is inevitable,” Johansson said. “We understand change in agriculture. But what we struggle with is a state that doesn’t have a plan of how we make those changes based on principles.”
Johansson said, “We can continue in agriculture to make a difference, feed the world and more importantly prosper our communities.”