Courtesy of Peter Hecht
The leader of California’s largest agricultural organization today called on lawmakers to work to sustain agriculture well into the future by securing water supplies and rejecting policies that merely ask farmers and ranchers to be resilient in the face of unaddressed challenges.
Speaking before the 105th Annual Meeting of the California Farm Bureau in Reno, Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson outlined “extraordinary events that have put all of California farmers and ranchers at risk.”
He noted the impacts of a three-year drought that resulted in the fallowing of more than 1.2 million acres of productive farmland. That was followed in 2023 by atmospheric river storms and destructive floods that caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to California farmland and crops.
Johansson took issue with California’s failure to complete long-planned water infrastructure projects that could have stored water for dry years and enhanced flood control in wet ones.
“While our members struggled, we faced administrations in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento who found it easy to blame it all on climate change,” said Johansson. He took political leaders to task for simply declaring that “agriculture would have to do less to meet climate goals.”
Johansson said farmers and ranchers need supportive policies rooted in science, not politics. He said Farm Bureau remains committed to “defending the use of science on our farms, our waterways…and saving the next generation of farmers and ranchers.”
“I truly believe it must be Farm Bureau and our membership who leads the fight.”
But Johansson cited some notable victories for California agriculture in 2023. That included advocacy that led Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign an executive order that rolled back unnecessary permitting requirements and bureaucratic red tape to allow farmers to divert floodwaters to recharge depleted groundwater aquifers.
“For 13 years, California Farm Bureau and some of our partners have been pushing the (California) State Water Resources Control Board to allow our farmers to use their land to recharge aquifers,” Johansson said. “This year, our efforts finally produced results.”
Johansson applauded actions by the governor that fast-tracked Sites Reservoir, a planned off-stream water storage project north of Sacramento long advocated by the Farm Bureau.