[env-trinity] Monterey County Herald 6/26/2010

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Sun Jun 27 17:11:06 PDT 2010

Editorial: Sky hasn't fallen over water allotment reduction


The Monterey County Herald

Posted: 06/26/2010 01:31:17 AM PDT

Updated: 06/26/2010 01:31:17 AM PDT


Let's return for a moment to last spring, when doom and gloom descended on
the San Joaquin Valley in the form of water-allotment reductions that, we
were told, would bankrupt the farmers, idle the workers and turn the region
into a modern dust bowl. 

Perhaps you remember when TV commentator Sean Hannity, with ample PR help
from the huge Westlands Water District, went on the air with a series of
heart-tugging stories about how farms and jobs were being lost because
wrongheaded environmentalists and federal officials were diverting "valley"
water to protect insignificant smelt and salmon. 

In western Fresno County, the bedraggled farm town of Mendota provided the
perfect backdrop for photo opportunities featuring busloads of sad-eyed
field workers supposedly thrown out of work by the likes of the Sierra Club.

Unfortunately for the recreational and commercial fishing industries and
others with an interest in keeping the environment in balance, Hannity and
other easily misled news operations largely missed the story about the
dramatic decline in the salmon population caused, largely, by San Joaquin
Delta pumping schedules that traditionally favored field crops over fish. 

Well, guess what. Farm income did slip last year in Fresno County. By 75
percent? Fifty percent? 

Try 4.5 percent. 

The county-by-county annual crop reports came out this week, and Fresno
County retained its title as the king of California agriculture, producing
$5.4billion in receipts. 

"I don't know how ag did it, but they did it," said Fresno County
Agricultural Commissioner Carol Hafner. "This is our third year of more than
$5billion in value." 

It really is not a mystery. The growers did it by relying on water
allotments that had been hoarded, by turning on their own pumps and by
raising prices. 

It is significant that the neighboring counties of Kings and Tulare saw much
sharper declines in farm income, 25percent and 19percent, respectively, but
not because of lost irrigation water. Dairy is a larger factor in those
counties, and wholesale milk prices plunged in 2009. 

To be fair, it certainly was a tough year for Fresno County agriculture. A
small portion of the federally subsidized water was indeed lost to the
fisheries, so farmers scrambled to change crops and planting patterns. Some
fields were taken out of production in order to protect recent large
investments in tree crops, including big water users such as citrus, almonds
and pistachios. 

Times certainly were tough in dusty Mendota. Times have always been tough in
Mendota. Almost assuredly, the income of Fresno County farmworkers dropped
more than the 5.4percent overall decline in farm income. 

But times are tougher yet along the docks and harbors of California, where
the salmon harvest has been wiped out by a water delivery system dominated
by ag interests aided and abetted by Hannity and others who wouldn't want
the facts to get in the way of a sad story.


Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax

415 519 4810 mobile

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 




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