Will Environmentalists Kill California Farms?

california-drought

The grass is always greener–unless, of course, you’re talking about California.

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) announced the first mandatory water restrictions in California history–telling residents that things like watering grass is “going to be a thing of the past.”

California has been struggling with a severe drought for four years. And things aren’t going to get better anytime soon: the snowpack level is just about zero, the lowest on record.

But while heavy restrictions on water use might be a hassle for those who want to keep their cars clean, pools filled, and grasses watered, it has the potential to devastate California’s agriculture industry. Places like the Central Valley of California is a massive national producer of produce, and Napa Valley is noted for being one of the world’s premiere wine regions. Overall, agriculture is a $40 billion industry in California.

Currently, Brown has exempted farmers from the new restrictions. But considering agriculture uses 80 percent of the state’s water–and uses it to grow especially thirsty crops like rice and almonds–that’s angered environmentalists.

Adam Scow, the California director of Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit environmental group, decried Brown’s exemption of farmers as a “failure to lead.”

“We don’t like when we see a double standard,” Scow explains. “Everyone’s going to have to do their part. These guys using all the water–you’re not asking them to do their part? It’s dishonest.”

Even without draconian new water restrictions, agriculture in California is already collapsing. Despite environmentalists’ claims to the contrary, farmers aren’t wasting water: right now, they’re only receiving 20 percent of the water they say they need. Last year, nearly 20,000 agriculture jobs were lost and 400,000 farm acres were taken out of use due to a lack of water–devastating cities like Fresno, California, which depend on agriculture as a staple industry.

Of course, lost jobs don’t matter for environmentalists like Adam Scow. California has a long history of pushing a liberal environmental agenda, at the expense of agriculture, like when it crippled California’s irrigation in 2007 to protect the “delta smelt.” That tiny silver fish cost California tens of thousands of jobs, hundreds of thousands of acres in farmland, and has become an icon of California’s “water wars” between the wealthy, liberal coasts and the agriculture industry in the east.

Despite Brown giving reprieve to farmers now, it’s only a matter of time before liberal greens try to shut off the water to California farms.

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Norma Goss
A native of Richmond, VA, Norma Goss a long-time contributor to Citizen Action, but considers her full-time job being a stay-at-home mom to her four daughters. She's a lifelong advocate for conservative policies.