@AlmondGirlJenny Urges Everyone in Ag to AgVocate on Social Media
By Laurie Greene, Editor
Digital platforms—not newsprint—lead the information superhighway-world we live in. Beyond news websites, everyone in the agricultural industry who is able should engage and agvocate on a few social media platforms such a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or blogs, according to @AlmondGirlJenny.
Jenny Holtermann, aka @AlmondGirlJenny,fourth-generation almond farmer in Kern County, is fully engaged with social media. Social media has become the news source for her, her friends and her generation. “I think it’s important to be involved in social media to tell your story,” Holtermann explained. “That’s how people are getting their news; that’s how people are getting their information these days.”
“It’s critical for us to be out there,” she added, “showcasing what we’re doing and highlighting the benefits of agriculture and how it’s multi-generational, how it’s family oriented. Get people to relate to it and become engrossed in it,” Holtermann said.
Last year a reporter from the Los Angeles Times asked Holtermann about water use in farming almonds. “I was able to set the reporter straight regarding all the myths about almonds and water use,” she commented. “I told her that over the last 10 years, almond growers have reduced their water use by 30 percent and we are working on saving even more.”
Jenny and her husband, Tim Holtermann, have a big story to tell. “I’m a fourth generation California farmer” she began. “My family farms almonds and walnuts in northern California. Then I married a fourth generation California farmer as well.
“We farm together with my husband’s family in the Wasco area. It’s very important to us to care for our land and treat it as best as we can so that it can be passed down to future generations. We’re raising the fifth generation, and we hope that someday, if he so chooses, our son has the opportunity to farm here as well,” she said.
“All of us in agriculture should tell our story,” Holtermann said, so others who are not involved with Ag can learn. “If social media is not your game, hire someone to help you get started.”
LA Times Wrongly Attacks Westlands and Refuses OP ED Correction
The Los Angeles Times recently published an intensely critical article about Westlands Water District, which recited many of the false, misleading, or outdated claims made by some of our critics over the years. The Times’ editors refused to print an Op-Ed that the District offered in response. And so the District has taken out a full-page advertisement in the Times TODAY to provide readers with a better understanding of the issues facing Westlands and how we are addressing them. A copy of the advertisement is attached.
I wanted to let you know immediately about this action.
Statement from Don Peracchi, President of Westlands Water District
As the largest public irrigation district in the United States, Westlands Water District draws a lot of attention as well as the criticism that sometimes comes with its successes. This year, one of its most persistent critics, George Miller, is retiring after 40 years in Congress, and to mark the occasion, the Times’ recently unpacked a trunkload of his oft-repeated complaints and concerns about the District.
Some parts of this catalog identify serious issues that were long ago resolved. Others involve legitimate problems which we are still trying to address. And, like many things involving California water, a few are pure, political invention.
The article’s fundamental charge is that Westlands is simply “in the wrong place.” One might make the same complaint about dredging natural marshes in California’s Delta to grow crops in the middle of a saline estuary. Or attack the folly of installing vast farms on the desert lands of the Coachella and Imperial valleys. Or stranger still, decry building a great city on the arid plain where Los Angeles now stands. The point is, these endeavors and dozens more helped to create the prosperity of California by linking our communities together with a modern water system.
The reality is that Westlands is in the ideal place. Indeed, the Central Valley of California occupies the only Mediterranean climate in North America. Weather conditions, rich soils, and the arrival of water in the mid-1960s, have transformed the area into the most productive farming region in America. The communities that have grown there as a result, the thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend upon agricultural productivity, are not “in the wrong place.” They are at home.
The most persistent criticism of Westlands’ role in this transformation has to do with the influence of “corporate agriculture.” That may remain a concern for some parts of California, but not in Westlands or any of the other farming region served by the federal Central Valley Project. When Westlands was created in 1952, major industrial interests, including Standard Oil of California and Southern Pacific Railroad, did indeed own large tracts of land within its water service area.
But that ended in 1982 with the passage of Congressman Miller’s Reclamation Reform Act. That act redefined the qualifications for receiving water from a federal reclamation project; as a result, large corporate entities sold out, the large tracts were broken up, and today in Westlands there are nearly 2,250 landowners and the average farm size is 710 acres. “Corporate agriculture” has lost its meaning. Any corporate structure for today’s family farmers in Westlands is likely to have a mom as its vice president and her child as its treasurer.
Water use remains a constant concern for our farmers. That’s why farmers in Westlands have invested more than $1 billion in water saving techniques and technology. Indeed, even Westlands’ harshest critics have acknowledged that the men and women who today farm in Westlands are among the most efficient users of irrigation water in the world. Westlands is a leader in water conservation, and agricultural experts from all over the world come to the District to learn how its farmers are able to accomplish so much with the limited, and often uncertain, water supplies they have to work with.
Our interest in water use efficiency has become even more important in the 22 years since Congressman Miller’s Central Valley Project Improvement Act, and a host of new regulatory restrictions redirected more than a third of the water that cities and farms used to receive from the federal project, dedicating it instead to serve a wide range of new environmental purposes. Today, on an annual basis, the federal project manages more than 1.5 million acre-feet of water for fishery flow, waterfowl habitat, to protect listed species, and other environmental uses.
In hopes of restoring reliability to the water system as a whole, Westlands is working with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and other public water agencies throughout the state to support Governor Brown‘s Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
Drainage was a major issue on the westside of the San Joaquin Valley for decades before Westlands’ creation. That is why when Congress authorized the construction of the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project, it mandated that the Bureau of Reclamation provide Westlands with both a water supply and a drainage system. Initially federal officials planned to dispose of the drain water in the Delta. But Congress stopped that project when the drain being built by Reclamation reached Kesterson, and it was Washington as well that decided to designate this new terminus for agricultural waste as a wildlife refuge.
The resulting biological catastrophe should have been predictable. In the years since, the drainage system in Westlands has been plugged, and not a drop of drain water has left Westlands after 1986. Instead, Westlands has helped to fund the development of new methods for recycling drain water. And it has taken nearly 100,000 acres of the most vulnerable farmland out of production. Some of those lands are being converted to solar power development, with the support of numerous environmental organizations.
The drainage problem, however, persists. Federal courts, including the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, have repeatedly ordered that federal officials fulfill their obligation to provide drainage. But even though Westlands farmers pay every year for drainage service, the government has done nothing to resolve the problem in Westlands. And the government is facing a mandatory injunction, which it estimates will cost more than $2.7 billion to satisfy.
To avoid that cost, the government approached Westlands to assume the responsibility to manage drainage water within its boundaries. In addition, Westlands would compensate those landowners who have been damaged by the government’s failure to act. As part of a settlement, which is not yet final, Westlands would receive some financial consideration, albeit significantly less than the cost of performing the obligations that Westlands would assume. But there is nothing secret about either the negotiations or the proposed settlement. In fact, federal officials and Westlands have briefed interested Members of Congress and non-governmental organizations on the proposal. And there is no process that is more public than the process that federal officials and Westlands will have to pursue to obtain the congressional authorization needed to implement the proposed settlement.
We remain hopeful that these ideas can still form the basis for a long-term resolution of the drainage debate. This would put an end to more than fifty years of litigation, relieve the federal taxpayers of a substantial obligation, and enable us to move forward with an environmentally sustainable approach to the problem.
Whether that happy outcome would also put an end to the criticism of Westlands, however, is not for us to say.
Don Peracchi was born in Fresno, California to second generation Northern Italian immigrants. His family has lived and worked in Central California over 100 years. He has been farming since 1982 alongside his wife, two sons and daughter in Westlands. He has been involved in career-related board positions including banking, insurance, agriculture and water. He currently is the Board President of Westlands Water District.
The California drought could dampen employment growth in coming years and have a ripple effect on several industries in the state, according to a UCLA report released Wednesday.
Economists said in the quarterly forecast that arid conditions in 2013, the driest year on record for the Golden State, could diminish the fishing and manufacturing sectors in the state. However, the effect depends on whether the drought is “normal” or the beginning of “a long arid period.”
California’s employment could be suppressed about 0.2% during the next few years because of the drought, the report concluded.
“If the drought is like the ones we had before, which are plentiful in California, then the data suggests it’s not a big deal economically,” said Edward Leamer, director of the UCLA forecast. “If this is really a climate change, that is a different story.”
Even without the weather factor, Los Angeles, among other cities, is grappling with major problems with its job market.
Among problems plaguing cities: the high cost of housing, congestion, lack of skilled workers and an unfriendly environment for businesses, said William Yu, an economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast.
“It should not be surprising that a business is less likely to start up, relocate or expand its business in a city who is business unfriendly, especially when there are many other business-friendly cities from which to choose,” Yu wrote in the report.
Over the next year, however, UCLA economists do expect the state’s economy to continue growing.
The current drought in California not only affects the agriculture industry, but California as a whole. Individuals should take the initiative to conserve water during this tumultuous time.