By Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition
The war in Ukraine and all the global unrest it is causing has focused American’s attention on just how uncertain a world we inhabit.
Inflation was already wreaking havoc on family budgets and now gas prices are also skyrocketing.
Which is exactly why our government should be doing everything it can to reduce reliance on foreign sources for our basic needs, especially food.
Unfortunately, that is the exact opposite of what is happening.
Through out-of-balance regulatory policies and a failure to prioritize western farming, our government is putting our safe, affordable, domestic food supply at risk.
Over 80% of our country’s fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown west of the Rockies and simply cannot be moved elsewhere. Without that supply, Americans will see shortages at the store, even higher prices, be forced to rely more heavily on increasingly unstable foreign sources, or all of these at the same time.
When you make a salad, have fruit for breakfast, eat a hamburger with cheese, or put tomato sauce and garlic on a pizza, odds are that at least some of those products came from California.
But without a reliable water supply, that farmland simply cannot produce what our country needs.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
In some western states, the government is holding on to existing water supply, rather than release it to farms to grow food. In California, we must move more quickly to build and repair infrastructure that will help us store more water in wet years for use in dry ones like this one. And in general, water policy has become unbalanced in ways that penalize the farms trying to produce our food supply.
California farmers are doing their part and have reduced water use by double digits since 1980. Throughout the West, farms are also important in the battle against climate change because crop production helps remove carbon dioxide from the air. If things continue the way they are, our government is essentially creating deserts instead of food production, which will only perpetuate the cycles of drought and wildfires we’d like to avoid.
Food price increases in 2022 are now expected to exceed those observed in 2020 and 2021. Without changes in water policy, it will continue to get worse.
It has never been more important that U.S. consumers insist on domestically grown food in our stores.