California farms turn to dust as Newsom and White House policies worsen drought effects

California farms turn to dust as Newsom and White House policies worsen drought effects
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

A drought-devastated farm with no crops in California. (Courtesy of Steve Koretoff)

After 20 years of growing asparagus in California's Central Valley, Joe Del Bosque is now resigned to watching his once-fertile fields revert to dust and dirt, courtesy of Mother Nature and the government.

The drought that has gripped the Golden State for two years has parched farms dependent on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which is the heart of the state’s complex system of dams, rivers, and canals. But the state and federal governments, which are supposed to help by managing the allocation of water, seem to have chosen fish over farms, said Del Bosque.

“We had to make a Sophie’s Choice which crop got water and which got the axe,” Del Bosque said. “One-third of my farm was unplanted this year.”

CALIFORNIA DROUGHT REVEALS MISSING 1965 PLANE CRASH

Since 2008, allocations have been cut to help preserve endangered species of salmon and smelt in the delta. Former President Donald Trump's bid to turn up the flow was thwarted by lawsuits, and now, a new review by President Joe Biden is expected to further slow the trickle to thirsty farms.

“It’s quite possible that they could get less [water],” said Jay Lund, the director of the Center for Watershed Science at the University of California, Davis. “The problems of these fish are pretty complex and require decades of sincere and dedicated effort to figure it out.”

Biden’s review is aimed at rolling back a Trump mandate that would have increased amounts from the Obama years. The increase never took effect because environmentalists and the state of California filed a lawsuit that is pending.

Farmers have told the Washington Examiner that they are barely hanging on and can’t imagine further cuts.

California almond trees are removed due to the drought. (Courtesy of Steve Koretoff)

“All they want is power, and they use this cult of global warming and saving animals,” Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican, said of the administrations of Obama, Biden, and Gov. Gavin Newsom. “They aren’t saving any animals. You quickly realize these are sick, sick, demented people. And now, we are facing the consequences in my region. "Three million acres of the most fertile land in the world, of which one-third is going out of production."

Many farmers are able to obtain a limited amount of groundwater, but even that can be in short supply. Sections of California’s groundwater have been depleted to the point of causing the ground to sink. One famous photo shows where the surface dropped more than 40 feet within a half-century.

“There is plenty of water in the state of California,” said Nunes, a former dairy farmer whose central California district includes vast tracts of farmland. “The problem is, at least in the San Joaquin Valley, 80% of the water that comes out of the Sierra Nevada [mountains] goes into the ocean. They aren’t saving the fish.”

Bone-dry

In the palm of a person's hand are several California almonds grown without enough water. (Courtesy of Steve Koretoff)

Californians have a term for what comes out of their taps: liquid gold. And nowhere is the phrase more fitting than on Del Bosque’s farm, where he grows organic melons for Costco, Safeway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s.

His water bill is $10 million this year, when he had to buy water on a secondary market at a $9 million markup. Even so, his livelihood is literally drying up.

“I only grow one-tenth of what I used to grow,” Del Bosque said.

Elsewhere, farmers are pulling out almond orchards due to a lack of water or trying other methods to survive.

“One of my growers harvested the crop early and cut the trees back to nothing,” said farmer and organic almond supplier Steve Koretoff. “The less canopy you have, the less water it uses. They may not see a decent crop for two or three years.”

Farmers told the Washington Examiner that they must gauge what they can plant by considering their allotment of water — then hope it doesn’t change.

Steve Couture described how he got burned by the process and lost tens of thousands of dollars. After borrowing from a bank to install a water conservation drip irrigation line for an asparagus and honeydew melon crop, his government water allotment never came. His crops died.

“They don’t care about farmers in the Central Valley. That’s the frustrating part,” said Rep. David Valadao, a California Republican who is also a dairy farmer. “Whether it’s bankruptcy or walking away, there aren’t a whole lot of options here, but it doesn’t end well for people of the Central Valley.”

The San Luis Reservoir in California was formerly filled with water, but it is now a dirt pit. (Courtesy of Joe Del Bosque)

Valadao said it’s “devastating" both for him and his constituents. In his hard-hit district, residents rely on wells. When they go dry, as they often did between 2011 and 2016, the state delivers a 5,000-gallon tank for the community.

For decades, California lawmakers have discussed upgrading the water infrastructure with additional reservoirs to support a population that has doubled since 1970. But even if this occurred, California would have a water problem, Lund said.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

“No matter what happens, people are not going to be happy,” Lund said. “We will still have to reduce irrigated acreage for crops 10-20% in the San Joaquin Valley. Half a million acres need to go fallow to make groundwater sustainable for the next 20 years.”

Washington Examiner Videos

Tags: News, Energy and Environment, California, Agriculture, Devin Nunes, Joe Biden, Gavin Newsom

Original Author: Tori Richards

Original Location: California farms turn to dust as Newsom and White House policies worsen drought effects

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting