I quite liked this editorial in the Fresno Bee, saying that the problems in the San Joaquin Valley aren’t from a lack of water, but are instead from farm overproduction. The guy specifically questions almonds; I was glad to hear someone else bucking the Almond Orthodoxy. He suggests idling half the production in the San Joaquin Valley, which is close to my prediction that two-thirds of irrigated ag in California will remain in the new climate.
Shubin mentions another issue I’ve heard raised in public comments in meetings, that farmland is being leased to distant farming corporations. The grower who mentioned it at the meeting I went to contrasted the stewardship of farmers who live on and work their land against the bottom line of an international company. I have to doubt that all local farmers are very motivated by stewardship, but the grower who raised this issue was convinced that distant corporations are much worse. He said that this turnover is accelerating as Californian farmers age out. All of this is plausible and now I’ve read another reasonable voice raising the issue.
The other issue I’ve heard in public comments is the clash between food safety and farming for habitat and the environment, so I was glad to see it get attention in the Chron.
To me, this all points back to my usual thesis, that our agricultural system should be designed to do something, and the design goals protected by law and subsidy, if need be. I personally think the design goals should be something like: grain and truck crop production for California and some of the US; a complex and stable ag community supporting middle class lives for farmers and farmworkers (but not more); farming practices that don’t mine resources like water, oil, minerals or dilution capacity, and support habitat for wildlife. I suppose there may be other design goals, but this haphazard shit is bad news for the agricultural community itself. The stereotype is that the ag community clings to western conservative tropes of market-based ag and self-determination on an underpinning of large public works projects. I’m sure it is more complex than that, but as much as that philosophy is running the show, it isn’t working for them.