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We are announcing a moratorium on permanent crops in groundwater basins with declining groundwater levels until the drought ends. As you know, we have been staunch defenders of the many valuable crops grown in California, even against the diseased hordes of filthy almond-blamers. We would never pick and choose which crops farmers can plant. We will be delighted to approve any orchard or vineyard in a groundwater basin that has stable groundwater levels. However, permanent crops create a constant need for water for the next twenty years. This drought has shown that when surface waters are not available, those who have planted trees and vines will pump groundwater from any depth at any cost.
Last year California passed a historic groundwater bill that set up a framework for local groundwater management. This framework will take until 2030 to come to fruition, and given the importance of our groundwater, we cannot handicap the groundwater management efforts starting now with a new, additional twenty years of demand and damage to our aquifers.
It might need some minor wordsmithing, but it is all yours, State Board. Whenever you want, ready for you. Make sure you emphasize that it is on the grower to demonstrate that the groundwater basin is stable and can handle the new load before planting. It isn’t up to neighbors or nascent local groundwater management agencies to prove that the new orchard destroyed their wells once it has already gone in.