Costa: Westside Water Cut Unconscionable

Jim Costa: Water Allocation is Immoral

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Jim Costa, Congressman for the 16th Congressional District of California that covers all of Merced County and parts of Fresno and Madera Counties and includes vast areas of agricultural land, is not happy with the water situation in California. Costa stated, “To be sure, we are still in a water crisis even though we have had some good [wet] months.”

“Sadly those good months have seen too much of that water going out to sea—as opposed to getting into the San Luis Reservoir and providing water for our Valley—whether for the East side or the Westside. It is a fight that I have been engaged in for years, but most recently, I have been trying to ensure that we are pumping at the maximum levels even under the flawed biological opinions that we are having to contend with.”

Costa explained that while the pumps have been turned up over the past month, sometimes to the maximum level, “the San Luis Reservoir is only 51% full, and now we are are still looking at a 5 percent water allocation for Federal water users.  This has been avoidable, and it is unconscionable and immoral. Let me repeat that, it has been avoidable, and it is immoral and unconscionable that we, in fact, are in this predicament. It is largely because we have failed to take advantage of the El Niño months of December and January.”

Assessing our winter water losses,Costa remarked, “Since January 1st, we estimate that we have lost over 440,000 acre-feet of water. This freshwater440,000 acre-feetwould make a big difference to our Valley, which has been water-starved from a combination of 4 years of drought, plus the flawed biological operations of the Federal and State Water Projects. So, we have to fix this broken water system, bottom line.”

Ryan Jacobsen on 5 Percent Water Allocation

Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO on Water Allocation

 By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

California Ag Today staff interviewed Ryan Jacobsen, CEO and executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau moments after the Bureau of Reclamation announced only 5 percent of contracted water would be allocated to Federal surface water users south of the Sacramento Delta during this El Niño year.

California Ag Today: Forget how you feel about the Bureau of Reclamation’s initial 5 percent allocation for Federal water users. How many times can we say, “Frustrated?” 

Jacobsen: Absolutely just despicablethe announcement we heard earlier today. The frustration is that we’ve continually been told over the last couple of years with zero percent water allocations that it’s been Mother Nature.

Even though it’s not necessarily the big bang year we were hoping for in northern California, Mother Nature provided. We’ve seen the reservoirs overflowing. We’ve seen the reservoirs flood-releasing, and here we are with a five percent allocation. We saw outflows in the delta this winter that exceeded the 300,000 acre/feet a day, and yet we weren’t doing anything to capture it. So, it’s just frustration, frustration, frustration that here we aremore of the sameand what does this mean long-term for California agriculture? We can’t be viable without a surface water supply, and when Mother Nature provides, unfortunately the federal government’s not trying to collect it.

California Ag Today: What is going on? Why are they doing this? Do you have any theories?

Jacobsen: Obviously, it has so much to do with the environmental side and the belief that the federal government is doing all they can to protect these species up there. We have seen that it’s doing no good; the fish species are seeing no recovery; it’s actually going in the opposite direction. It is plain mismanagement. The unfortunate part is sound science isn’t even going into this right now; it is purely the emotional side of whoever decides to pull the trigger on the federal side. And here we are on the resulting end, losing millions and millions of dollars in our economy, idling more farmlandthe most productive farmland in the countryin the worldand losing the jobs that are associated with it.

San Luis Reservoir -Empty, California Farm Water Coalition
San Luis Reservoir Suffering the 2015 Drought is now barely half filled even after the El Nino rain, runoff and massive flood releases from Shasta an Oroville

California Ag Today: You speak brilliantly on this whole situation. Way more water has flowed out to the ocean than needed for the protection of any of the species or the environment, so who are they listening to?

Jacobsen: Right now, this is simply the administration’s decision. Reclamation falls under the federal side of things, so obviously, ultimately, it lays on the President’s desk. If we talk about resolution: by 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, we could see a resolution to this whole issue. If Congress would get their act together and pass some kind of bill, get it on the President’s desk and get it signed, we could see some resolution.

Unfortunately, here we are, April 1:  a good portion of the precipitation season is now behind us, the high flows through the delta are pretty much over. We still have healthy reservoirs up North, but unfortunately it doesn’t mean anything for us down here because we can’t convey it through the Delta to get here. That lack of  and the lack of ability on the federal side to make the decisions that would allow us to pump that water makes this just another year of doom and gloom. Again, how much more of this can we take? I think the long-term outlook for those farmers with permanent crops who have tried to scrape by, has to be, “Is this even viable for us to continue to do this anymore?” ‘Because Mother Nature provided, and yet we don’t see the water.

California Ag Today: Very bleak. Ninety-five percent of normal snowfall, too.

Jacobsen: The percentages in northern California, while good, weren’t the El Niño banner year we were expecting. The season looked bright, like it was going to be good. Yet, the fact of the matter is that during the months of January, February and March, when these just incredible numbers of high water flows were going through the Delta, pumps were pumping in single digits. And that’s not even close, or anywhere near where they should have been.

I think the misconception is when we talk about the water that is taken from the Delta, it’s such a small percentage, particularly during those high-flow times; it would have meant no difference to water species. It’s just a frustration that we continue to be bombarded by these environmental restrictions that are having no good effect on the long-term viability of these species they are trying to protect.

California Ag Today:  What is the economic impact of these water cutbacks on the Central Valley?

Jacobsen: Well, when you look at the five percent allocation, we are ground zero. Fresno County, right in the heartland of the Central Valley, is ground zero. We are going to see probably in excess of 200,000-250,000 acres of land continue to be fallowed and the loss of the tens of thousands of jobs associated with that, and millions, tens of millions of dollars. It’s obviously a very dire situation when it comes to long-term viability here in the Valley.

California Ag Today: Because they are going to hear a lot of outrage from us, do you think the Bureau of Reclamation would go to a 20 percent water allocation? Farmers must be thinking, “We got to get the seeds ordered today for the crops.” Is there any hope for an increase in water, or do you think farmers just can’t bank on it?

Jacobsen: It’s already too late. For this season, it’s already too late. It is April 1 already, and, unfortunately, this is not a joke. This decision is about one month-and-a-half late. I think the Bureau of Reclamation was hoping the numbers would improve magically. They didn’t.

The five percent allocation, while said not to be our final allocation, is likely to be close. It won’t go up to 20; it won’t go up to 15. Maybe if we pray enough, it may go up to ten, but that would be on the high side. Right now, it looks very realistic that five percent is where we end up, where we are going to stand for the year.

California Ag Today: Okay, I know growers who have planted tomatoes in Fresno County, thinking, “Hey, we gotta get water.” They’re not getting it.

Jacobsen: They’re not getting it, no.  And lack of surface water supply continues to make a huge dent in our groundwater supply, so this just can’t continue the way it is going. Plus, upcoming implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), combined with the lack of federal surface supplies, will absolutely hammer farms here in the Valley.

Westlands Water Allocation “Despicable”

Westlands Water Allocation “Despicable”

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Earlier TODAY, the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) stunned the farming industry by announcing a  5% water allocation for most of the farmland to the Westlands Water District on the Westside in the Central San Joaquin Valley. This single digit water allocation to the comes during an El Niño year of wet weather, following four years of drought and restricted water deliveries to Westlands of 40% in 2012, 20% (2013), 0% (2014) and 0% again (2015).

Westlands Water District LogoLes Wright, agriculture commissioner for the Fresno County Department of Agriculture—ground zero for agricultural water cutbacks, said, “I can’t think of a word to describe how I am feeling about our federal water managers. It’s despicable what they’re doing to this Valley.”

“You have two major reservoirs in flood stage,” said Wright, “but they are refusing to turn the pumps on. It’s like they want to starve out the Valley, its farmers and communities. Agriculture is the major economic driver for the Valley communities, and they’re doing everything they can to drive the people out of this Valley.”

Established in 1902, the USBR, according to its website, is best known for the building of more than 600 dams and reservoirs, plus power plants and canals, constructed in 17 western states. These water projects led to homesteading and promoted the economic development of the West. 
Sign of drought Westlands Water District Turnout

The USBR website reads, “Today, we are the largest wholesaler of water in the country. We bring water to more than 31 million people, and provide one out of five Western farmers (140,000) with irrigation water for 10 million acres of farmland that produce 60% of the nation’s vegetables and 25% of its fruits and nuts.”

Yet, some Western farmers have received a 0% water allocation for each of the past two years, and now may receive only 5% this year. Already, Westlands Water District reports over 200,000 acres of prime farmland in the district have already been fallowed.

Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO
Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO

“Reservoirs throughout the state have been filling,” said Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO, Ryan Jacobsen, in a statement TODAY. “However, the government’s restrictive interpretation has resulted in the permanent loss of 789,000 acre-feet of water,” said Jacobsen. “Since December 2015, more than 200 billion gallons of water have been forever lost to the ocean, with almost no water being allocated to agriculture.”

Commissioner Wright reflected, “President Obama and both California senators have been here in the Valley, on the ground. They have seen what we are doing. They recognize the crisis; yet they refuse to use their authorities to correct the situationin a year when we’re dumping millions of gallons of water to the ocean.”

Wright explained the federal government is sending fresh water to the ocean in excess of what is needed for the environment and the protected species. “They are just wasting the water,” he said, “and yet, we have the Governor telling us to cut back 25% to 35%. And all of that water we saved last summer and in the last year, they have more than doubled the waste.”

“Where is the governor on this issue?” Wright asked. “It is despicable what the government is doing to its people.”

Kern County Ag Ranks Second in State, Fresno Drops to Third

Ruben J. Arroyo, Kern County Agricultural Commissioner reported the 2013 gross value of all agricultural commodities produced in the county was $6,769,855,590, according to the 2013 Kern County Agricultural Crop Report, representing an increase (6%) from the revised 2012 crop value ($6,352,061,100). Thus, Kern County ag ranks second in state, with Tulare ahead, and Fresno behind.

Kern County’s top five commodities for 2013 were Grapes, Almonds, Milk, Citrus and Cattle & Calves, which make up more than $4.6 Billion (68%) of the Total Value; with the top twenty commodities making up more than 94% of the Total Value. The 2013 Kern County Crop Report can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards website: www.kernag.com

Tulare County reported gross annual production in 2013 at $7.8 Billion, Fresno County, $6.4 Billion, and Monterey County, $4.38 Billion.

As predicted by many, including CaliforniaAgToday on July 15, 2014, Fresno County, long-time top ag county in the state—and in the nation—now ranks third in the state and has regressed in ag growth since 2011.

Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner, attributes much of the decrease to the water shortage, particularly exacerbated by a large part of the West Side being dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries that have been curtailed by pumping restrictions due to the Endangered Species Act.

Zero Water for West Side Districts

The unprecedented zero water deliveries this year are extremely hard for managers of West Side Water Districts.

Martin McIntyre, General Manager of the San Luis Water District based in Los Banos, is very frustrated about keeping farming operations and employment viable with zero percent water allocation.

Martin McIntyre,
Martin McIntyre, General Manager of the San Luis Water District.

“The biggest frustration for us has been the regulations that interfere with water supply deliveries intended to protect a couple of endangered fish species. From our perspective, they are rather misguided,” said McIntyre.

A recent study by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences found that the current drought is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture. This, in conjunction with federal environmental restrictions on the state, have create some difficult situations.

“There are many causes in the decline of species, and the regulators have seized water flow as the principle cause. There is ample evidence that it’s the declining food supply and the toxic releases into the delta; but the popular, publicized notion remains that water deliveries are endangering the species, and its simply isn’t the case,” said McIntyre.

While the preservation of fish species is an admirable goal, the environmental restrictions that have been put into effect are not the most appropriate solution. Especially during a severe drought when farmers are already struggling.

“We’re allowed to take, depending on the year, approximately 300 smelt, little Minnows, at the major pumping stations that serve the lower two-thirds of the state. That’s a snack for a Striped Bass! It’s estimated that, in some reaches of the delta, 90 percent of salmon smelt are eaten by Striped Bass; and yet, regulations are putting the state’s water supply in jeopardy in a misguided effort to try to recover the species–without addressing the more fundamental problems,” said McIntyre.

Modesto Irrigation District leaders hustling to get growers more water

By: Garth Stapley; The Modesto Bee

Nut farmers and other Modesto Irrigation District customers can wait to water crops as late as Oct. 3. That’s two weeks later than initially planned, giving trees a better chance of surviving the drought and being healthy enough to produce again next year.

The MID board also agreed Tuesday to accommodate another round of farmer-to-farmer water transfers with a Sept. 2 application deadline. And the district might offer to sell some extra water reserved in April by a few farmers who haven’t asked or paid for it since then.

Faced with a third consecutive dry winter, district officials in February said the irrigation season would end Sept. 19, several weeks earlier than usual, and capped deliveries at 24 inches per acre, down from 36 in a normal year.

But farmers, especially those raising almonds, have been pressing for later deliveries.

Citing University of California research, Ron Fisher said trees that don’t drink just after harvest can lose 74 percent of nuts the following year.

Some almond varieties, such as padre, mission, Monterey and Fritz, harvest later than Sept. 19, growers told the board.

“I’ve farmed almonds over 50 years and I’ve never got my harvest completed by Oct. 3,” said Cecil Hensley, a former board member. “There is no use having (water) next year if we don’t keep our trees alive.”

Farmers won’t get more than their fair share with the extension; Tuesday’s unanimous vote simply allows them to apply their allotment later in the year, explained board member Jake Wenger, who farms.

Board Chairman Nick Blom, also a grower, reminded people that they can rent district wells and canals after the regular season ends, for late-season irrigating.

“It’s not the purest snow water, but it’s water,” Blom said.

To augment deliveries, scores of farmers this year have taken advantage of new programs allowing them to buy or sell MID shares in fixed-price transfers managed by the district or open-market sales at any agreed-upon price.

The district has accommodated more than 100 open-market deals for farmers who submitted transfer requests by deadlines of June 1, July 1 and Friday. Tuesday’s 4-1 vote, with Larry Byrd dissenting, adds a fourth deadline of Sept. 2.

“This gives everyone a little more time and flexibility,” Modesto farmer Aaron Miller said.

Wenger initially suggested an Aug. 15 deadline. Attorneys Stacy Henderson and Bob Fores said their clients would appreciate more time and noted that MID General Manager Roger VanHoy had acknowledged that his staff has experienced no difficulty processing transfer requests.

In April, 26 farmers indicated interest in the district’s allocation return program, meaning they might want to sell a portion or all of their MID water shares, or buy water given up by others. The cost was $200 per acre-foot on either end.

The district set aside enough water to cover those potential deals, but a handful of farmers – fewer than a dozen, said civil engineering manager John Davids – did not sign contracts and have not paid for the extra water they initially said they might buy.

Davids did not know how much water remains in that pot, but said it represents a potential $300,000 loss. Board member John Mensinger said that’s “regrettable” and Wenger suggested selling the water to others in what VanHoy termed “something like a last call.”

“Let’s make it available. I think people would take us up on it,” Wenger said.

VanHoy said he will suggest rules for such deals at a future meeting.

The board next meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at 1231 11th St., Modesto.

 

Severe Drought Now Covers 100% of the State

Mark Svoboda, National Drought Mitigation Center, reports that all of California is now depicted as being in severe drought (D2) or worse this week, with the D3/D4 areas remaining unchanged. A heat wave is settling in that will only serve to exacerbate and accelerate drought impact concerns across the state. Increased water demand and risk of fire will ramp up as the heat does, and the state’s agricultural industry continues to suffer. The current drought map is included below.

A cursory review of drought impacts includes:

Groundwater: CDFA reports the state’s groundwater resources are at historically low levels. Fifty percent of the 5,400 wells assessed have dropped since 2008 to points lower than they in the previous century. San Joaquin Valley levels fell more than 100 feet below previous historic lows, while Sacramento Valley, Sonoma Valley and Los Angeles basin levels fell up to 50 feet. Note that the analysis was done in the spring when groundwater levels are usually at their highest.

Curtailments: CDFA reports curtailments in various watersheds, depending upon runoff conditions, water demand and the type of water rights. Water rights holders, including water agencies, farmers and other property owners, have been unable to receive their due water supplies. Junior water rights holders lose out first. Efforts are underway to save water for essential health and safety purposes, wildlife and habitat.

Food Assistance: The California Department of Social Services announced food assistance provisions to at least 24 counties with high unemployment rates and a high proportion of agricultural workers. Foodbanks struggle to supply provisions as the state grows less produce and sources provide lower produce donations.

Livestock Reductions: Many cattle and other livestock producers in California transported thousands of animals by truck to other states as they cannot wait out the stunted grass and depleted water sources. Reuters reported that up to 100,000 California cattle have left the state in just the past four months and producers are selling their cattle early.

Fruit and vegetable prices:  rose 2 and 3 percent in 2013, respectively, per USDA, as low water supplies affected production. A similar price increase in 2014 is likely as more than three million acres out of the nine million acres of irrigated land in California receive no surface water, aside from rain.

Reduced production:  USDA forecasts a 20 percent reduction in rice production and a 35 percent drop in cotton production in California this year as farmers leave fields fallow in response to very meager water allocations.

Photo credit: Robert Galbraith/ReutersUS Drought Monitor CA

 

Drought Monitor Key

Central SJV Growers Frustrated Re: 100% Water Allocations in Northern California

Cannon Michael: There is a Complete Lack of Common Sense

Water Allocations Unfairly Distribute Suffering in the Central Valley

 

Feather River growers in Northern California have 100 percent water allocations and it’s very frustrating to Central Valley Farmers.

“True, it’s a drought year but there have been opportunities to get water south of the Delta that have been completely blown by mismanagement, over-regulation, a complete lack of common sense, and lack of understanding what the real needs are,” said Cannon Michael, a 6th generation California farmer in Merced County.

“The California Water Resources Control Board, and the Bureau of Reclamation have sent more than 1.8 million acre feet of water out the Golden Gate only for a possible need for fish. When you have such a dramatic need for humans, it’s just insanity; and at a some point, it all has to catch up with a lot of people,” said Michael, who has had to set aside 15 percent of his farm due to no water.

“The people who are regulating and the people who are legislating have insulation from this for a little while, but it eventually is going to catch them,” Michael said. “The problem for me is that these regulations hurt the poorest of the people and the minority community, who are already having a tough time.”

“These regulations and low water allocations are taking away valuable fresh food and milk, and all the things people need for life. It’s taking away jobs and will displace thousands of workers who will have to get in food lines to survive. And this is completely unnecessary,” said Michael.

“There could have been way more water allocations exported safely this year. There were no fish at the pumps and we have the data to prove it,” said Michael.

“We had good storms in February, March and April, but the majority of that water went out the Bay; it wasn’t even close,” said Michael.

“There are too many left-leaning decisions from the California Water Resources Control Board to the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco, which made a recent ruling that hurt agriculture, agreeing that the Bureau of Reclamation did not consider the safety of the Delta Smelt several years ago when it exporter water south. And then on top of everything, Governor Brown pulls the funding from ag education. It is a constant barrage against agriculture, and when will it ever be enough?” asked Michael.

“There is no respect for California agriculture. There are so many people spinning lies about our industry. Do they want all the specialty crops that they enjoy eating coming from other countries? Again, it’s insanity,” he said.

And Michael said the farmer is always, always held accountable while the environmental community is never held accountable. “There is no accounting for what they use the water allocation for when it’s released it to the ocean. There is no report on what good it’s doing. They are not at all held to the same standards as California Farmers.”

‘Curtailments’ and other woes tighten supplies

Source: Kate Campbell; Ag Alert

Facing severe drought, California farmers and ranchers are bracing for an increasing flow of bad news about water supplies.

State officials said last week they’re preparing to curtail diversions to holders of certain water rights; federal authorities said they have no immediate plans to increase the “zero” allocation for most of their farm water customers; and a new report detailed the pressure surface-water shortages have placed on California groundwater basins.

The State Water Resources Control Board said it is preparing to curtail water diversions from watersheds that drain into the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, the Tulare Lake Basin, and the Russian and Eel rivers.

In times of shortage, state water law says if there’s not enough water for all water right holders, the most junior will be curtailed before restrictions are imposed on more senior water right holders. Seniority is determined by the type and age of the water right.

Riparian water rights are generally the most senior rights, followed by older appropriative rights and then newer rights. Any water supply remaining in the watershed after appropriative water rights are shut off must be shared on a “correlative basis among riparian users.”

In most watersheds where curtailment is likely, the water board said notices will go to post-1914 water rights holders beginning in May; thousands of individuals and water agencies hold such rights, although it is not clear how many will receive the curtailment notices.

Holders of pre-1914 rights are also expected to receive curtailment notices, later this year, and it’s anticipated that supply this summer and fall won’t meet all riparian demands, requiring riparian users also to reduce or stop using water.

Given the dire shortages expected in coming months, the water board said after curtailment, it expects to allow limited diversions for public health and safety needs where no other water supply is available.

“We encourage management of water supplies to protect public health and safety, but we also must emphasize the need for adequate food production,” said Danny Merkley, water resources director for the California Farm Bureau Federation. “Having healthful, local food available is a big part of ensuring human health and safety.”

Also last week, the state Department of Water Resources’ final snow survey of the year found more bare ground than snow, with snow water content at only 18 percent of average for the date.

Officials at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Central Valley Project, said last week they don’t know “when or if we’ll be doing another (water) allocation announcement.”

Economic losses in the billions of dollars are anticipated due to the zero water allocation for CVP agricultural contractors. The Friant Water Authority said its contractors are preparing for a “financial and social calamity,” as they prepare for the first-ever call on Friant water to supply San Joaquin River exchange contractors and honor their historic river water rights. The agency said all-out efforts continue to seek an emergency solution to the water cutoff.

The state’s citrus belt—Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties, where the bulk of fresh-market citrus is grown on about 50,000 acres—faces estimated losses of $3 billion. Many farms do not have access to groundwater or other alternative water sources, and some orchards are being pushed out.

“It is incredible that a system created to preserve agricultural production in this state is being leveraged to service environmental needs at greater levels than are necessary, while agriculture is left to go dry,” said Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

The groundwater report is available at www.water.ca.gov/waterconditions.

Curtailment information by watershed is available at www.swrcb.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/drought/analysis/.

Valley Citrus Growers Receive 0% Water Allocation; Citrus Growers Available for Interviews April 23, 2014!

Late last week, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that rain and snow storms in February and March have allowed an increase of water contract allocations for State Water Project deliveries from zero to five percent.

Although this appears to have been positive news for agricultural interests in the San Joaquin Valley, it is far from it.  The DWR announcement went on to state that the precipitation from these recent storms eliminates the need for rock barriers to be constructed in the Delta.  This means that the increase in water deliveries will be flushed into the ocean in order to protect fish species and prevent saltwater intrusion in the Delta. San Joaquin Valley agriculture remains at zero percent allocation.

Approximately 75% of the California citrus crop is produced in Tulare, Kern, and Fresno Counties.  A majority of this acreage relies on surface water from the Friant-Kern Canal.  DWR’s delivery increase does nothing to reduce the pressure on the Friant from exchange contractors who would otherwise receive their water via the State Water Project.

Earlier this month, the DWR and State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) released a 168-page document they refer to as the “plan.”  However, the plan does not refer once to the people or the economy that will be impacted by zero water allocation to agriculture.  The word “farmer”, or “agriculture”, appears once.  The word “fish” is stated 328 times.

California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen
California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen

“Friday’s announcement was made with much fanfare and yet the decision completely ignores the East side of the San Joaquin Valley, and even stipulates that we are not important,” says CCM President Joel Nelsen.

The photo above depicts “petal fall” and the first life stages of an orange, when the blooms have fallen.  It is at this critical point of the growing season, when we enter into the hottest months of the year, that sufficient water is available for the cultivation of the crop.

California is the Nation’s number one supplier of fresh citrus. “Our Valley is the number supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables and yet that does not enter into the equation for water needs,” continues Nelsen.  “What ever happened to the goal of providing a bountiful array of fresh produce at affordable prices?”

The Friant-Kern Canal needs at least 200,000 acre-feet to remain functioning.  The decision not to release sufficient water to the State Water Project guarantees that exchange contractors will call upon their first rights to water supplies in Millerton Lake and reduce the amount that would otherwise flow to the Friant-Kern Canal.  This decision is forcing growers to make their own decision – between pushing out trees and holding out for water that may come too late, or not at all. Over 50,000 acres of citrus in the San Joaquin Valley is at risk. But, it is not just trees that will be pushed if Friant does not receive water – jobs will be pushed, people will be pushed, and the economy will surely suffer.

“I continue to be mystified by the announcement last Friday and the inconsistencies it presents,” says Nelsen.  “The announcement on Friday and previous announcements all state that the public should strive to conserve at least 20% of their normal water use.  Yet the producers I represent, and for that matter all producers on the Eastside of the San Joaquin Valley, are being told to give up 100% of their water.  In fact, those in the Friant Service area are the only contractors being asked to give up 100% of their water.”

This situation is real and devastating for many family citrus farmers.  Here are a just a few growers who are facing zero water allocations. 

Andrew Brown
Andrew Brown

These growers, and others, will be available for interviews tomorrow, April 23rd at 2:00 p.m. at the Lamp Liter Inn in Visalia.  Please provide advanced notice to Alyssa Houtby, 559-737-8899 if you plan to attend. 

 

Andrew Brown, a fourth generation citrus grower in the Orange Cove, Orosi/Cutler area works alongside his father and brothers on his family’s farm.  Andrew has known since college he would follow in his father’s footsteps and return to faming because it is a rewarding business mentally, spiritually, financially. Now he has his own ranch where, one day, his two young children want to be second generation farmers.  

 

Gus Carranza
Gus Carranza

Gus Carranza grew up picking oranges in the San Joaquin Valley alongside his parents. He worked through school as a truck driver for a farming operation. His career in the citrus industry eventually led him to work for a major citrus grower-shipper operation.  He now manages their field department.

In 2000, he started farming his own acreage in Terra Bella with his brothers.  What began as a 10-acre operation has now expanded to 130 acres.  Carranza has received zero surface water this year. Unless something changes, he will watch his trees die, and watch his investment of $30,000 per acre die with them.

Maribel Nenna
Maribel Nenna

 

Maribel Nenna works for a packing house in Southern California as the operation’s field advisor in the Central Valley. Ten years ago, she and her brother took their passion for the citrus industry and purchased 10 acres of citrus. Today, they farm 40 acres – all have received zero water allocation. In two weeks those trees, approximately 135 trees per acre, will lose their crop if they do not receive water. 

Matt Leider
Matt Leider

 

Matt Leider is a 5th generation citrus producer.  He grew up working on his mother’s ranch in Southern California before going to college. His involvement in the citrus industry is now two-fold.  He works on his uncle’s citrus ranch in Porterville, and manages a successful mechanical pruning business that services citrus growers throughout the Valley.  He needs one acre-foot of water per acre just to keep his family’s citrus acreage alive, but he doesn’t have it.

Carlos Gutierrez
Carlos Gutierrez

 

 

 

Carlos Gutierrez came to Lindsay when he was four years old. In 1999 he started a portable restroom business servicing citrus harvest crews.  He then bought 12 acres of citrus on his own in 2001.  Now, he manages harvesting crews for a packing house and owns over 100 acres on his own.  He has a little water, but not enough to keep all of his acreage alive.

 

Jesus Ramos farms 86 acres in Terra Bella and another 50 acres in Strathmore.  He put down a deposit of $600 per acre-foot for water, and now hopes to find water at $1,200 an acre-foot.  But, he can’t find any because none is available.  He hopes to save his best acreage because he knows he can’t save everything.

 

The California citrus industry is dominated by family farmers.  “Everybody talks about protecting the family farmer, but by denying surface water to the Friant service area the state’s water agencies are aiding in their demise,” concludes Nelsen.