There are almost too many editorials and posts to link to, decrying agriculture’s exemption from the mandatory water use restrictions that came out April 1st. I want to think about why Governor Brown is doing this, but I’d like us to work from the same texts. So far as I have seen, here are his own words about why agriculture has been exempted.
From ABC news:
Brown said farmers have already been denied irrigation water from federal surface supplies, and they’ve had to leave hundreds of thousands of acres unplanted.
“Of course we could shut if off,” said Brown. “If you don’t want to produce any food and import it from some other place, theoretically you could do that. But that would displace hundreds of thousands of people and I don’t think it’s needed.”
Brown pointed out, there are farmers with “senior” water rights. “Some people have a right to more water than others,” said Brown. “That’s historic, that’s built into the legal framework of California. And yes, if things continue at this level that’s probably going to be examined.”
A nicely done piece in the Western Farm Press:
To the premise that agriculture is getting a “free ride” in the Governor’s order, Cowin said, “Ag water use has been significantly affected during this drought… The state board (Marcus’ board) has implemented curtailments on some water rights holders throughout the Central Valley and elsewhere, so Ag water use is definitely being affected here.”
To a similar question, Marcus responded: “They (farmers) are already cut back under much harsher circumstances through the seniority (water rights) system.”
To yet another question, Cowin openly disagreed with a reporter’s question and premise, saying: “We are asking Ag water users to conserve water. In fact, the enforcement in this case includes curtailing water available to them.”
CDFA Secretary Ross likewise defended the thrifty practices farmers have employed when irrigating crops.
Ross defended almond growers, who in recent months have been on the receiving end of some rather brutal attacks for irrigation water use.
Without skipping a beat, Ross pointed out that almonds are grown in California:
Because markets are available;
Because demand continues to increase;
Because of the availability and price of land and water; and
Because of the lack of labor needed to produce tree nuts in a marketplace that is moving towards more automation.
I am going to assume his executives are representing Governor Brown’s administration appropriately, and that these reflect Governor Brown’s thinking as well. So, let’s go over these reasons.
UPDATED: This is a very nice summary of administration thought, so far as I know what administration thought is.