Food security hasn’t been used as an advocacy point for California agriculture in the policy debates I’ve witnessed. I have heard that agriculture advocates hesitate to bring it up because the first question after we accept the premise is “how much land and water would it take for California to ensure its own food supply”. That number is so low that “ag” doesn’t want us talking about it.
We can estimate! California grows America’s produce and fruit on 4 million irrigated acres.
California’s population is 40 million people. America’s population is 320 million people.
40million Californians/320million Americans = 0.125.
12.5% of 4 million irrigated acres = 500,000 irrigated acres.
No matter the drought, no matter what climate change brings, Calfornia is going to get enough precip to grow food to feed itself. That said, I would still rather that food security were an explicit goal, which I would use to justify supporting a smaller agricultural base in our state. I predict that ag will shrink considerably, but I would like to see a healthy base of 5 or 6 million irrigated acres.
Economists (even here, in our own comment section) suggest that rather than ensure food security by growing our own, we could rely on being rich and getting food in trade. For important things like food, I’d rather maintain the capacity to grow our own. Just this week we saw an example of trade being inadequate to secure an important resource. When there isn’t none, you can’t buy none.
Because it has irritated me for several days now, I will correct a couple quotes I’ve seen in the recent news. This is sheer pettiness on my part, so I will hide it below the fold.
Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, said Thursday that “it’s understandable that people want to point fingers at first.”
But she said California’s farms are “something to be valued” and that if “you like fruit and vegetables, you like [one-third of California’s] agriculture.”
A: I find it rather disturbing that some people see this as an urban vs. agriculture issue. The California Constitution states that water belongs to the people of the state. It is our water to use for the benefit of all Californians. I myself am happy to be able to cut back on my water use so that it can be used to grow food. What greater use of water do we have? It is inconvenient and perhaps aesthetically unpleasing to have a brown lawn, but compared to food production and food insecurity, the impact on my own life seems pretty minor.
What greater use of water do we have? Well, there are some pretty good uses, like keeping salmon from extinction and some pretty damn trivial forms of “food”. Sudan grass for Japanese cows? All of California agriculture isn’t equally crucial to feeding humans and I feel no shame in pointing that out.